Pope Francis said on Sunday he would appoint 21 new cardinals from across the world at the end of September as he seeks to leave his imprint on the papacy.
The upcoming assembly of cardinals, scheduled for September 30 and known as a consistory, will be the ninth for Pope Francis, 86, who became pope a decade ago and is seeking to put a lasting stamp on the institution.
“Their provenance expresses the universality of the Church that continues to proclaim God’s merciful love to all people on earth,” said the pope, following his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Saint Peter’s Square.
Francis’ new choices are closely watched as an indication of the future direction of the Catholic Church and its priorities for the 1.3 billion faithful.
All cardinals under the age of 80, including 18 out of the group named on Sunday, are known as “cardinal electors”, who will participate in the vote to nominate the successor to Pope Francis.
Following the consistory in late September, there will be 137 cardinal electors, about three-quarters of whom will have been appointed by Francis.
Since becoming pope, Francis has sought to elevate clergy from developing nations far from Rome to the highest ranks of the Church, as part of his general philosophy of diversity and inclusion.
The names Francis announced Sunday include clergy in regions where Christianity is growing, such as Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Among the archbishops to become cardinals are those of Juba in South Sudan, Cape Town in South Africa and Tabora in Tanzania.
The list also includes the bishop from Penang, Malaysia, and that of Hong Kong, Stephen Chow Sau-Yan, who has a Harvard PhD in psychology and will be key in improving the Church’s fraught ties with communist China.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the top Catholic in the Holy Land, Italy’s Pierbattista Pizzaballa, whose archdiocese encompasses Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus, also will be inducted.
– Missionaries and administrators –
Francis is also tapping the heads of key dicasteries, including the Italian Claudio Gugerotti, currently prefect for the Dicastery of the Eastern Churches, and Argentina’s Victor Manuel Fernandez, chosen earlier this month by the pope to head the powerful Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Chicago-born head of the Dicastery for Bishops, Robert Prevost, who is charged with overseeing bishop appointments and a longtime missionary in Peru, was also named, as was the Holy See’s apostolic nuncio, or diplomat, to the United States, Christophe Pierre from France, who has also served as envoy in Haiti, Uganda and Mexico.
Included from Latin America is the emeritus archbishop of Cumana, Venezuela, the archbishop of Cordoba in Argentina, and a 96-year-old Capuchin priest from Buenos Aires.
The last consistory was held in August 2022, when Francis inducted 20 cardinals.
Cardinals, who wear the scarlet robes of their office, serve as the pope’s top advisers and administrators.
During the consistory, the future cardinals kneel one by one at the feet of the pope, who places on their heads the quadrangular scarlet cap, or biretta.
Following the ceremony, the Vatican holds a traditional “courtesy visit”, in which the new cardinals greet the general public.