Pope Francis names 21 new cardinals
Pope Francis on Sunday announced he has chosen 21 new cardinals, including prelates from Jerusalem and Hong Kong — places where Catholics are a small minority — as he continues to leave his mark on the body of churchmen who will select his successor.
The pope announced his picks during his customary weekly appearance to the public in St. Peter's Square, saying the ceremony to formally install the churchmen as cardinals will be held on Sept. 30.
Among those tapped are several prelates holding or about to assume major Vatican posts, including the archbishop from La Plata, Argentina, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, whom the pope just named to lead the Holy See's powerful office for ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy and overseeing processing of allegations of sexual abuse against clergy worldwide.
The new cardinals also include Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Sau-yan Chow and the Vatican's top official in the Middle East, Monsignor Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Those two churchmen guide flocks in geopolitical areas of keen concern to the Vatican.
On Sunday, in remarks preceding his reading out of the list of new cardinals, Pope Francis expressed hope that Israeli and Palestinian authorities would take up "direct dialogue" to end the "spiral of violence" - a reference to recent deadly clashes.
For decades, the Vatican and China have experienced tensions alternating with improvement of relations over the Communist-led nation's insistence that it has the right to appoint bishops and the jailing of priests who professed loyalty to the pope.
Cardinals serve as advisers to the pontiff on matters of teaching and administration, including the Vatican's scandal-plagued finances. But their most crucial duty is gathering in a secret conclave to elect the next pontiff. Francis has named numerous batches of new cardinals in his 10-year papacy. That means, increasingly, the men who will vote for whoever succeeds him, in the event of his resignation or death, are churchmen supportive of his values, priorities and perspectives.
Other churchmen chosen to receive the cardinal red include those from Cape Town, South Africa; Juba, South Sudan, which the pope visited earlier this year on a pilgrimage; Penang, Malaysia; and Lodz, Poland.
Eighteen of the 21 new cardinals are younger than 80 and would be eligible to vote in a conclave.
The 86-year-old pontiff was hospitalized last month after undergoing abdominal surgery, with the surgeon who performed the operation saying Francis "will be able (to carry out his duties) better than before because he no longer will have the discomfort."
Francis is scheduled to head to Portugal at the start of August and Mongolia at the end of that month.