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Pope Francis names 17 new cardinals, including 3 Americans

Pope Francis leaves at the end of a Marian vigil Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Oct. 9, 2016. He later announced his intention to create 17 new cardinals, including three Americans. Photo via Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis leaves at the end of a Marian vigil mass in Saint Peter's Qquare at the Vatican, October 9, 2016. He later announced his intention to create 17 new cardinals, including three Americans. Photo via Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis leaves at the end of a Marian vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Oct. 9, 2016. He later announced his intention to create 17 new cardinals, including three Americans. Photo via Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Pope Francis on Sunday (Oct. 9) promoted 17 Roman Catholic prelates from around the world to the high rank of cardinal, including 13 who are under 80 years old and thus eligible to succeed him one day.

Three are from the U.S., the first Americans Francis has named as cardinals:

They are Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop William Tobin of Indianapolis and Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who was recently appointed to head a new Vatican department on family and life issues.

Cardinals, who wear red hats and are known as “princes of the church,” are the most senior members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy after the pope and serve as his principal advisers around the world and in the Vatican.

Naming new cardinals is one of the most significant powers of the papacy, allowing a pontiff to put his stamp on the future of the 1.2 billion-member global church.

Cardinals under 80, known as cardinal-electors, can enter a secret conclave to choose a new pope from their own ranks after Francis dies or resigns. Francis, the former cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected in a conclave on March 13, 2013.

The new cardinal-electors come from Italy, the Central African Republic, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Belgium, Mauritius, Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

Significantly, Francis said the current Vatican ambassador in Syria, Italian Archbishop Mario Zenari, would be elevated but remain in his post to show the church’s concern for “beloved and martyred Syria” — an allusion to the devastating civil war there.

It was believed to be the first time in recent history a Vatican ambassador, known as a nuncio, would have the rank of cardinal.

The pope has made numerous appeals for an end to Syria’s war, and last month he urged forces to stop bombing civilians in Aleppo, warning them they would face God’s judgment one day.

The four new cardinals over 80, who get the position as a symbolic honor to thank them for long service to the church, include the Rev. Ernest Simoni, 88, an Albanian priest who spent many years in jail and forced labor during the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985.

Francis, making the surprise announcement during his weekly Sunday address, said the ceremony to elevate the prelates, known as a consistory, would be held on Nov. 19.

With the current batch, Francis has named 44 cardinal-electors, slightly more than two-thirds of the total of 120 allowed by church law.

It will be his third consistory since his election in 2013 as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, and he has used each occasion to show support for the church in far-flung places or where Catholics are suffering.

The Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Lesotho will have a cardinal for the first time, underscoring Francis’ conviction that the church is a global institution that should become increasingly less Euro-centric.

Last year the pope visited Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. Amid some of the tightest security ever seen on his trips, he preached reconciliation in the nation racked by bloodshed between Muslims and Christians.

Only one of the 13 cardinal-electors will take on a Vatican job. The others would remain in their posts around the world.

In addition to Simoni, the Albanian priest, the other three cardinals over 80 come from Malaysia, Italy and Lesotho.

Here is the list of new cardinals, via Vatican Radio:

Under 80 years old:

1. Archbishop Mario Zenari (Italy), Vatican ambassador in Syria

2. Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic

3. Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid

4. Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia, Brazil

5. Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago

6. Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh

7. Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela

8. Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Malines-Brussels, Belgium

9. Archbishop Maurice Piat of Port Louis, Mauritius

10. Bishop Kevin Joseph Farrell of the United States, head of a newly created Vatican department

11. Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico

12. Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

13. Archbishop Joseph William Tobin of Indianapolis

Cardinals over 80:

14. Archbishop Emeritus Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

15. Archbishop Emeritus Renato Corti of Novara, Italy

16. Archbishop Emeritus Sebastian Koto Khoarai of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho

17. The Rev. Ernest Simoni of Shkoder, Albania

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Mark Heinrich)



About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • Like the pope, Cupich fired two employees, Sandor Demkovich and Colin Collette, for marrying their partners. Cupich defrocked Fr. Marco Mercado because of his “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.” Pope Francis excommunicated Fr. Greg Reynolds for supporting same-sex marriage, fired Fr. Krzysztof Charamsa from his Vatican post after coming out and refused to accept the appointment of Laurent Stefanini as French ambassador to the Vatican because he was openly gay.
    Cupich is as callous towards sex-trafficked victims of child porn as the pope. Cupich was notified in July 2015 that child porn was seen on the computer of Fr. Octavio Munoz. He did not notify the police or the public. “It was not immediately clear if police were told before an arrest warrant was issued for Munoz Aug. 30, 2016.” Pope Francis removed his Dominican Republic ambassador, Archbishop Wesolowski in Aug. 2013 for sexually abusing poor boys, without notifying the police or the public and leaving him a free man. Wesolowski was put under house arrest in the Vatican in Sept. 2014 only when “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” At the time, Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of child porn.

  • The issue with Cupich is that he has never been a man of substance, and nothing changes even as Cardinal, for you cannot give what you don’t have.

  • I just a radio host (conservative) say that the Pope picked liberal cardinals from the US. Glad to see you pointing out how absurd that thinking is!!

  • So grateful to see the name of Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago among the newly appointed Cardinals. I was privileged to watch his Installation as Archbishop of Chicago. When I heard him speak it was like music. This man loves God, Christ and PEOPLE! As I listened to his welcoming style, his openness, his inclusion of all people I hoped that one day he might be a Cardinal. He is the kind of Cardinal the Church desperately needs. Blessings to you, Blasé Cupich. May God in Christ bless you in every way.

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