Cardinals enter "Pro Eligendo Pontifice" Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on March 12, 2013 at the Vatican. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Are American Cardinals an endangered species?

The U.S. church not only marks the passing of Cardinal Francis George this week, but also the 80th birthday of Cardinal Justin Rigali — which means American representation in the College of Cardinals is significantly diminished, and at risk of declining further if Francis doesn’t act.

Cardinals enter "Pro Eligendo Pontifice" Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on March 12, 2013 at the Vatican. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis to pick new cardinals and begin reshaping the hierarchy

(RNS) Any day now, Pope Francis is expected to make his first appointments to the College of Cardinals, the select group of about 120 scarlet-clad senior churchmen whose main duty is to advise the pope while he reigns – and gather in the Sistine Chapel when he dies or resigns to name his successor. Will one of the 14 or so picks be the next pope?