New cardinals from the church's 'periphery'

New cardinals from the church's 'periphery'

With today’s announcement of 20 new cardinals, Pope Francis has moved decisively toward making the College of Cardinals a truly global institution.

The cardinals come from 14 countries on five continents, including Cape Verde, Myanmar, Panama, New Zealand and even the Kingdom of Tonga, a Pacific archipelago that is home to a mere 15,000 Catholics.

They will receive their red hats at a consistory in Rome in mid-February. The list of appointees included no one from the United States or Canada. Pope Francis, in fact, has yet to appoint a cardinal from the United States, which today has 18 cardinals, a relatively high number.

There are several things to note in the pope’s selections:

-- By choosing prelates from eight dioceses that have never had a cardinal, Francis is clearly shaking up the geographical mix of a group known as the church's "senate." In effect, the pope is removing the expectation of red hats that have attached to many established major dioceses for centuries. This new policy – enunciated explicitly today by the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi – sets in motion further globalization for the future: expect fewer Europeans, and more cardinals from the Catholic “periphery.”

-- Of the 15 new cardinals who are under age 80, and therefore able to vote in a conclave, the pope chose two Italians. That means Italy would continue to have great influence in a potential papal election, with more than one-fifth the number of voting cardinals. But as he did last year, the pope selected Italians from smaller dioceses, passing over traditional cardinalate sees like Venice and Turin. Once again, the effect is to remove the customary expectation of a red hat.

-- Only one new cardinal comes from the ranks of the Roman Curia: French Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who recently succeeded Cardinal Raymond Burke as head of the Vatican’s top tribunal. The number of Vatican officials among voting-age cardinals has dropped under Pope Francis. After February, they will make up about 27 percent of the total, compared to about 35 percent in the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

-- The pope demonstrated that the limit of 120 voting-age cardinals is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. After the next consistory, the church could have 125 cardinals under age 80. Pope Francis has chosen, like his predecessors, to stay close to the 120 ceiling. But there’s no reason why, in the future, he could not simply decide that the fastest way to increase geographic diversity in the College of Cardinals is to increase the number of its members.

7 comments (Add your own)

1. T.W. Lipp wrote:
I'm in love with a Pope. Warm, modest, intelligent and brave.

Sun, January 4, 2015 @ 6:46 PM

2. taad wrote:
All this "change" is intoxicating. Some people thrive on changing everything, not realizing that at times, some change can have very serious unforeseen consequences that cause more harm than good. It all sounds good until you start to dig down into it.

Sun, January 4, 2015 @ 8:48 PM

3. Jerry Slevin wrote:
Thank you, John, for that helpful information.

Why did Francis disregard the 120 voting Cardinal cap? It is likely Francis is concerned about helping the chances of a successor being elected that will continue his initiatives, the few that have been undertaken so far. He now has appointed more than 3/4ths of the key number of voting Cardinals, 42, needed to block any papal election of a candidate he objects to. Pope John Paul II similarly “over appointed” Cardinals in 2003 when he was likely concerned about maximizing the votes for his likely choice for a successor, ex-Pope Benedict. So much for canon law as a check on the pope’s absolute monarchical power.

In the same way Pope Francis overruled canon law here, he could overrule in other areas as well, for example in requiring all bishops to report priest child abuse claims to the police promptly in all cases.

Pope Francis missed a golden opportunity here to appoint some women as Cardinals, such as former Irish president, Mary McAleese, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice, Anne Burke. Half of the world's Catholics, women, have no Cardinal who knows first hand their perspective. Please see my remarks, "Pope Francis Overlooks Women as New Cardinals" at:

Mon, January 5, 2015 @ 9:21 AM

4. JP wrote:
Is the problem not the vast over representation of Italians in the College of Cardinals. Far from merely avoiding the 'traditional' cardinatial Sees in Italy in my view Italians should be avoided altogether, until such time as the numbers come in to normal parameters, say 3 or 4 from Italy. This would allow for a broader European representation, many parts of Europe are very peripheral in Church terms, and for more cardinals to be appointed from the Holy Lamd and Middle East.

Additionally I belive only a few officials in the Vatican should be Cardinals, maybe 10-12 senior officials. Further the limit of 120' set 40 or so years ago by Pope Paul VI, needs amending. The Church is far wire spread now, far larger numerically, it is simply time to revise the number upwards. 144, would see a reasonable number to increase to at this point, may be in another 40 years a further increase will be in order.

Mon, January 5, 2015 @ 10:27 AM

5. Jerry Slevin wrote:
Interestingly, John, some perceptive journalists, including John Allen, are raising questions about whether Pope Francis' may be choosing diverse and less powerful Cardinals paradoxically in order to increase papal power. Please see my related remarks entitled, "US Experts Question Pope Francis' Strategy". The link is:

Mon, January 5, 2015 @ 3:40 PM

6. James P. Vaughn, OFS wrote:
How Holy Father elevated the Archbishop of Addis Ababa; a religious provincial of the cardinal with red beretta! What a blessing!

What a wonderful blessing for Ethiopian / Eritrean Catholic communities of the desporia.

Mon, January 5, 2015 @ 4:44 PM

7. Jim McCrea wrote:
Adding men from the Eastern Rites to the ranks of papal electors would truly represent an understanding of the meaning and validity of those Rites in the broader world of Roman Catholicism.

Mon, January 5, 2015 @ 5:24 PM

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