New Cardinals: In His Image, He Created Them

October 30, 2020

The Sovereign Pontiff surprised more than one Vaticanist by announcing the creation of thirteen new cardinals during the Angelus of October 25, 2020. Henceforth, the porporati created by Pope Francis have reached the number of seventy-three, making a lasting impression within the Sacred College, the mark of the Argentine pontiff.

There are thirteen of them: could we see, oltretevere [beyond the Tiber], the omen of a bright future? What is certain is that the new cardinals form a rather heterogeneous ensemble – “Bergoglian,” they whisper in the cozy lounges of the apostolic palaces. There are parish priests, Franciscans, a retired nuncio, a former director of Caritas, a preacher of the Papal Household, some members of the Curia, and bishops from various continents and mission lands.

Pope Francis is thus expanding the college of cardinals, with the announcement of a new consistory - the seventh of his pontificate, practically once a year - scheduled for November 28. If the ceremony cannot take place in the Vatican, the new cardinals should receive the red hat in their respective countries.

The list of new princes of the Church highlights the Argentinian Pope’s desire to make his mark on the Sacred College: the great episcopal sees - such as Turin, Milan or Venice - remain deprived of the honor of the purple; attention to the poor, to migrants, to the “peripheries” seem more important criteria.

Like Mgr. Paolo Lojudice: first exercising his ministry in the popular districts of Rome, the future poporato was appointed auxiliary of Rome in 2015, then secretary of the Commission of Bishops for Migrants within the Italian Conference of Bishops. Until his appointment in 2019 as Archbishop of Siena, Bishop Lojudice was engaged in the pastoral care of the “peripheries” of the capital, focusing on the integration of nomads and Roma [gypsies].

The same is true of Don Enrico Feroci: over eighty years old - which excludes him from the college of electors - the diocesan priest is rewarded for his work as director of Caritas for the city of Rome. Some see in this appointment a form of revenge against Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former vicar of the Eternal City, who did not appreciate Don Enrico’s “Church of the poor” profile.”

The presence of three Franciscans - Capuchins or conventuals - should be noted. The first is the Capuchin Celestino Aos Braco, named Archbishop of Santiago de Chile last year. With a white beard and a psychology degree in his pocket, Bishop Aos was sent to the Chilean capital to settle several painful cases of abuse.

Then Fr. Mauro Gambetti, Franciscan conventual, guardian of the St. Francis Convent in Assisi, who was expected to take charge of dioceses such as Naples or Bari. Instead, the Pope inserted his name among those of the new cardinals, in order to honor the city of Assisi, visited by the reigning Pope on four occasions: the last, on the occasion of the signing of the encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

The third Franciscan honored with the purple, is Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, also over eighty years old, Capuchin theologian, preacher of the Papal Household since the 1980s, under three pontificates. A religious close to the charismatic movement.

The list also includes three “curial” nominations. Thus Mgr. Mario Grech, bishop of the Maltese diocese of Gozo, who barely a month ago succeeded Cardinal Baldisseri as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops: Mgr. Grech is known for encouraging access to Eucharistic communion in for “remarried divorcees” in his diocese.

Also promoted: Mgr. Marcello Semeraro, former bishop of Albano and secretary general of the Council of Cardinals, whom the Holy Father has just placed at the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, succeeding Cardinal Angelo Becciu, dismissed at the end of last September, against the backdrop of a financial scandal. Bishop Semeraro is sadly distinguished by his preface to a book with the evocative title: “L’amour possible. Les personnes homosexuelles et la morale chrétienne [The Possible Love: Homosexuals and Christian Morality], which goes so far as to claim that “homosexual acts correspond to the nature of the person and express personal love.”

Last curial appointment, that of a diplomat, in the person of Bishop Silvano Tomasi, former apostolic nuncio and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, Justice, and Peace. Bishop Tomasi, who has just turned eighty, is being approached to replace Cardinal Angelo Becciu as special delegate of the Holy See to the Order of Malta.

The international dimension of the Sacred College remains an aspect dear to Pope Francis: thus, the first African-American cardinal is named in the person of Mgr. Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington D.C., United States. A prelate considered to be “progressive.” He did not hesitate to criticize President Donald Trump’s actions during the race riots that rocked the country in the spring of 2020.

The mission territories are honored with the appointment of Bishop Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of the Sultanate of Brunei, where he is from; as well as Mgr. Antoine Kambanda, Archbishop of Kigali in Rwanda. The Philippines have also been assigned a second cardinal in the person of Mgr. Jose Fuerte Advincula, Archbishop of Capiz.

Finally, Mgr. Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, Mexico, former bishop of San Cristobal, who was secretary of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM), having passed the milestone of eighty years.

After the Consistory of next November 28 - excepting resignation or death - the Sacred College will have 232 members, of which 128 will be electors, eight more than the maximum limit provided for by the motu proprio Ingravescentem Aetatate of 1975.

It should be noted that no Frenchmen figure in the new cardinal promotion, the last two to have been raised to the purple being Mgr. André Vingt-Trois in 2007, and Mgr. Dominique Mamberti, in 2015. On the other hand, Italy is receiving 6 new cardinals, the New World receives 2, Asia 2 also, Africa 1, Spain and Malta 1.