Men on the ground, from different continents and sensitive to the “peripheries”: Pope Francis created twenty new cardinals close to his line on Saturday, an additional step in the preparation of his succession.
This consistory, the eighth of Francis' pontificate since his election in 2013, comes amid speculation about the state of health of the 85-year-old pope, weakened by knee pain and who left "open" the possibility of giving up a day in his ministry.
Under the gilding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, in the presence of dozens of cardinals and diplomatic representatives, the sovereign pontiff has created twenty new cardinals, among whom sixteen "electors" - those under the age of 80 - will be able to participate in the future conclave.
As usual, the new "princes of the Church" knelt before the pope to receive their red barrette (square headdress) and their cardinal's ring. Only 19 of them were however present, the Ghanaian Archbishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr having had to be hospitalized for a heart problem.
“A cardinal loves the Church (...) by dealing with the big questions, as well as taking care of the little ones; by meeting the great of this world, like the little ones, who are great before God”, declared in his homily the sovereign pontiff, who arrived in a wheelchair but seemed in good shape.
The appointment of these high prelates responsible for assisting the pope is scrutinized by observers who see it as an indication of the possible line of the future spiritual leader of the 1,3 billion Catholics.
World's Youngest Cardinal
Sensitive to minority communities, social fiber and evangelization, the Argentinian Jesuit has freed himself from the traditional choice of archbishops of large cities, preferring less expected profiles.
Pope Francis has now chosen 83 cardinals out of the current total of 132 voters, nearly two-thirds the proportion needed to elect a new pope, although that choice is always unpredictable.
With 40% of voters, Europe thus remains the most represented continent, ahead of South America and Asia (16% each), Africa (13%) and North America (12%) .
Among the notable personalities is the American Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego in California considered progressive for his positions on homosexual Catholics in particular.
Also worth noting is the unexpected choice of the Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Oulan-Bator (Mongolia), who at the age of 48 became the youngest cardinal in the world.
“With simplicity and humility, I listen to people much more experienced than me,” he told the press on Saturday, confident that he was “surprised” and “honored” by his appointment.
Get to know each other better
Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseilles particularly committed to inter-religious dialogue, becomes the sixth Frenchman in the college of cardinals.
Other men in the field to put on the purple robe, the Nigerian Peter Okpaleke, the Brazilian Leonardo Ulrich Steiner or even Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, Archbishop of Dili (East Timor).
Three future cardinals already occupy positions of responsibility in the Curia, the “government” of the Vatican: the Briton Arthur Roche, the South Korean Lazzaro You Heung-sik and the Spaniard Fernando Vérgez Alzaga.
The ceremony was followed by the traditional “courtesy visit” to the Vatican, which allows the public to greet the new “princes of the Church” one by one.
In the process, on Monday and Tuesday, a meeting will be held with some 200 cardinals and religious leaders from around the world, whom the Pope wanted to bring together to discuss the new "Constitution" of the Vatican, which came into force in June, and the future from the church. A meeting which, indirectly, will make it possible to prepare the next conclave.
It will be an opportunity "to get to know each other better, because we come from all over the world", as well as to discuss the "reorientation of the Curia", confided Bishop McElroy.
Jorge Bergoglio has recently accelerated his reforms of the Curia and its finances and wishes to introduce more horizontality in the governance of the Church, giving more space to women and lay people.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)