Pope Picks 15 New Cardinals Reflecting Diversity

New York Times, January 4, 2015

Pope Francis named 15 new cardinals Sunday, selecting them from 14 nations including far-flung corners of the world such as Tonga, New Zealand, Cape Verde and Myanmar to reflect the diversity of the church and its growth in places like Asia and Africa compared to affluent regions.

Other cardinals hail from Ethiopia, Thailand and Vietnam.

None came from the United States and only three European nations received new cardinals–Portugal and Spain in addition to Italy. Cape Verde, Tonga and Myanmar gained cardinals for the first time.

Francis told faithful in St. Peter’s Square that the new batch of cardinals “shows the inseparable tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.”

Five new cardinals come from Europe, three from Asia, three from Latin America, including Mexico, and two each come from Africa and Oceania.

With his picks, the Argentine-born Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America, made ever clearer that he is laying out a new vision of the church’s identity, including of its hierarchy. He looked beyond traditional metropolitan area for the “princes of the church” who will help advise him as goes forward with church reforms. Cardinals also elect his successor.

He has said repeatedly that the church must reach out to those on the margins.

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the selection “confirms that the pope doesn’t feel tied to the traditional ‘cardinal sees,’ which reflected historic reasons in various countries.”

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The pontiff ignored another tradition: limiting to 120 the number of cardinals under 80 and eligible to vote for his successor.

Counting the new cardinals, 125 cardinals will eligible to vote, although Lombardi noted, “he kept very close to it (120), so it was substantially respected.”

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Notable among Pope Francis’ picks are churchmen whose advocacy styles seem to particularly capture matters dear to his heart.

Monsignor Francesco Montenegro, a Sicilian, was at his side when Francis made his first trip a few months into his papacy. Montenegro welcomed the pontiff to Lampedusa, a tiny Sicilian island whose people have helped thousands of migrants stranded by smugglers. The pontiff has repeatedly denounced human trafficking and urged more attention to people on the margins of society. He also has thundered against Mafiosi, and Montenegro’s Agrigento diocese includes towns where people have dared to rebel against Cosa Nostra.

The only native English-language speaker chosen by Francis is Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand. Summing up his own intervention at last year’s Vatican conference on controversial family issues, including gay marriage and divorced Catholics, Dew has said the church must change its language to give “hope and encouragement.”

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