In a ceremony known as a consistory, Pope Francis elevated 21 clergymen from various parts of the world to the rank of cardinal on Saturday. The Pope highlighted the importance of diversity for the future of the Catholic Church during this event, which was the ninth consistory since his appointment as the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics in 2013.
Under clear skies and in front of a large crowd that filled Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis welcomed these new cardinals, often referred to as the “Princes of the Church.” One of them may eventually become the successor to the current pope.
Pope Francis stressed the need for the College of Cardinals to function like a symphony orchestra, symbolizing the harmony and unity of the Church. He emphasized that while diversity is essential, every cardinal’s role should contribute to the common purpose.
The selection of these new cardinals, including diplomats, advisors, and administrators, is closely watched as an indicator of the Church’s priorities and direction. One of them could potentially be chosen by their peers to succeed Pope Francis, should he decide to step down in the future due to health concerns.
Out of the 21 new cardinals, 18 are under the age of 80, making them eligible to vote in the next conclave, where the next pope will be elected. Pope Francis has appointed a total of 99 cardinal-electors during his papacy, signaling a potential continuation of his inclusive and socially focused approach to leading the Church.
Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has aimed to create a more inclusive and universal Church by appointing cardinals from regions outside of Europe, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This approach contrasts with the tradition of promoting archbishops from powerful dioceses.
The new cardinals represent diverse regions, with three from South America, including two from Argentina, three from Africa, and representatives from Asia. Notably, Bishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong is seen as playing a pivotal role in improving relations between the Vatican and Beijing.
Some of the newly appointed cardinals have experience in sensitive diplomatic areas, underscoring the Holy See’s desire to play a diplomatic role in challenging regions. This includes the first seated Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Italian Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Pope Francis has also chosen top administrators in the Holy See’s government, reflecting a balance between diplomacy and administration in his selections.