Since the beginning of his papacy last March, Pope Francis has changed the face of the Catholic Church as the first Jesuit and Latin American to lead more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide. The Pope threw another curveball this past Sunday by electing 19 new cardinals from around the world, focusing on underprivileged countries.
Sixteen of the cardinals are under the age of 80, meaning that they will be able to vote for the next pope, while three are over the age and awarded the title “cardinal emeritus” without voting rights.
A geographical breakdown of voting-eligible cardinals shows that they represent almost all regions: two from Europe, two from North and Central America, three from South America, two from Africa and two from Asia. The new cardinals hail from 12 countries, including Argentina, Chile, South Korea and the Phillipines.
Perhaps the most telling of these appointments are Archbishop of Ougadougou, Phillipe Nakellentuba Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso in West Africa and Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes of Haiti: Both are the first Cardinals from their respective countries. Choosing these two men “shows concern for people struck by poverty,” according to Fr. Federico Lombardi of the Holy See’s Press Office.
The consistory, the ceremony in which the new cardinals will officially gain their title, takes place on Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.
This focus on third world and non-European countries falls in line with Pope Francis’s aspiration to, in his words, “represent the deep ecclesial relationship between the church of Rome and other Churches throughout the world.”
With the new appointments, 61 of the 122 cardinal electors will be European. However, a power shift is evident in the Pope’s selections for the new Cardinals, offering more status and importance to clergy members of countries that are often overlooked. Traditionally, European clergy have generally held positions of higher authority than their non-European counterparts.
“Under Francis, we are in a period when old schemes of ecclesial power and authority, and promotion, are being set aside in favor of a new emphasis on pastoral care in support of the marginalized and the suffering,” wrote Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican magazine.
For the younger generation of Catholics, Pope Francis signifies a changing view of the Church in a modern world. Known for his simpler vestments and choice to cook his own meals in his apartment, Pope Francis defies the stereotypical grandeur associated with the papacy. He has repeatedly stressed the need for a church that “is poor and for the poor.”
Even in addressing the cardinals-to-be, Francis implored them to avoid “any expression of worldliness or any form of celebration contrary to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty.”
Pope Francis’s choices on Sunday demonstrate his dedication to his vision of a more loving and less Euro-dominated, hierarchical church. As his papacy continues, many hope to see more progressive changes.Featured photo courtesy of Júnior Miranda/Wikimedia Commons.