Pope Francis has announced 15 bishops and archbishops to be honored as cardinals, and it is a diverse group from around the world.
The Pope said on Vatican Radio that he will hold a meeting of cardinals on February 14, and “will name 15 new Cardinals who, coming from 13 countries from every continent, manifest the indissoluble links between the Church of Rome and the particular Churches present in the world.”
The New York Times reports that Pope Francis has chosen many of the new cardinals from developing countries, reflecting the growth of the Roman Catholic Church in Asia and Africa. Nine of the cardinals come from developing countries in those continents, five are European, and one — the only native English speaker — from New Zealand.
“The most evident criteria is evidently that of universality,” said Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman. “Fourteen different countries are represented, including some that do not currently have a cardinal, and some that have never had one.”
According to CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John L. Allen, cardinals are sometimes referred to as the princes of the Catholic Church, and new cardinals are important because they “set the tone in the church and also elect the new pope.”
“This is a pope who very much wants to reach out to people on the margins, and you can clearly see that in this set. You’re talking about cardinals from typically overlooked places, like Cape Verde, the Pacific island of Tonga, Panama, Thailand, Uruguay.”
Allen noted that, for the second time since Francis’ election to Pope, no Americans have made the list. Last year, Pope Francis appointed 19 new cardinals, including bishops from Haiti and Burkina Faso.
“Francis’ pattern is very clear,” Allen said. “He wants to go to the geographical peripheries rather than places that are already top-heavy with cardinals.”
The Pope appears to be carrying on a new direction of diversity in the church leadership, which his election confirms. According to the Inquisitr, Francis is the first non-European Pope in 1,200 years.
Christopher Bellitto, a church history professor at New Jersey’s Kean University, feels that Francis’ choice to announce the new cardinals on the Catholic Feast of the Epiphany is significant. The Feast celebrates the visit of the Magi to Jesus’ birthplace.
Bellitto believes that Francis wants to decentralize the church, and to hear reform ideas from the small areas distant from Catholic power centers.
“On feast of three wise men from far away, the Pope’s choises for cardinal say that every local church deserves a place at the big table,” he said.
In addition to the 15 active church leaders, Pope Francis also announced he will honor as cardinal five retired archbishops and bishops “who are distinguished for their pastoral charity in the service of the Holy See and of the Church.”
[Image via Denver Catholic Register]