Pope Francis, The Diversity Pope, Sends Message Of Tough Love To New Cardinals

Pope Francis elevated twenty new cardinals to the College of Cardinals on Valentine’s Day. The new cardinals hail from many countries outside Europe with many coming from the developing world, increasing the diversity of church leadership and possibly shifting influence away from Europe. Some of the new cardinals were chosen from Myanmar, Cape Verde, Panama, Tonga, and New Zealand. These new appointments, in addition to increasing the diversity of church leadership, more closely represent the Pope’s core values.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the new Cardinal from Myanmar, told Crux that “he hopes his role as cardinal will allow him to be a voice for the voiceless in Myanmar working for human rights, justice, and permanent peace … ‘giving more attention to the marginalized, the internally displaced refugees, and the migrants.'”

In addition to cardinal Bo, Pope Francis seated Francesco Montenegro from Agrigento, Alberto Suárez Inda from Michoacán, one of the most violent states in Mexico, and Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, from Valladolid, Spain.

Elevating Suárez Inda sends a strong signal that the Pope wishes to elevate the concerns of people outside the traditional seats of power to a new level of importance in the church. Michoacán is suffering from drug cartel violence, which also is causing an exodus of people fleeing for safety.

Cardinal Pérez is quoted as saying, “He’s [Pope Francis] calling the Church to tend to the most complicated situations of humanity and also to remember so many countries that have suffered much, even by being neglected or forgotten. The youngest man Francis chose comes from Tonga! Many don’t even know Tonga is a country.”

During the installation ceremony, the Pope expressed his concern that the cardinals should enter their new roles with humility, seeing themselves as servants of the church rather than “a priestly elite maneuvering among themselves,” according to Religion News Service. To emphasize his point, Pope Francis told the new cardinals before allowing them to take the oath of fidelity, “The cardinalate is certainly an honor, but it is not an honorific.”

The Pontiff also urged the cardinals to be men of charity, saying “You’re incardinated in the Church of Rome, which presides over the entire assembly of charity. In the Church, leadership flows from charity, must be exercised in charity, and is ordered toward charity.”

[Image courtesy of Franco Origlia/Getty Images]