Pope expands ranks of cardinals likely to choose successor

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis elevated 20 other clergymen to the rank of cardinal on Saturday, officially expanding those who are now eligible to vote for his successor in the event he dies or resigns — the latest step he said that ‘he would consider if the need arose.

Of the clergymen named new cardinals at the consistory ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, 16 are under 80 and therefore eligible to participate in a conclave – the ritual, locked assembly of voting cardinals. to elect a new pontiff.

Francis, 85, has now appointed 83 of the 132 cardinals currently young enough to join a conclave. The others were appointed by the two previous popes, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose unexpected retirement in 2013 paved the way for Francis’ election.

With the eight groups of cardinals Francis has named, the prospects are strengthened that whoever becomes the next pontiff will share his vision for the future of the Church.

Francis reminded the cardinals of their mission, which he said includes “an openness to all peoples, to the horizons of the world, to the still unknown peripheries.”

Underscoring Francis’ concern for those on the margins of society, among the new cardinals is Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad, India. The prelate, 60, is the first member of the Dalit community, considered the lowest echelon of the caste system in India, to become a cardinal.

One by one, the most recent cardinals, whose red cassocks and caps symbolize the blood they must be ready to shed if necessary in their mission, knelt before Francis, who placed on their heads the prestigious biretta, as the three-pointed hat is called.

This intimate moment was an opportunity to exchange a few words with Francis, who smiled to put them at ease. Sometimes the seated Francis, himself hampered by mobility issues, lent his own arms to help the kneeling cardinals to their feet.

In choosing the bishop of San Diego, Robert Walter McElroy, Francis ignored American clergymen at the head of traditionally more prestigious dioceses, including the archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone.

McElroy is among a minority of U.S. bishops who have opposed a campaign to deny communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Cordileone said he would no longer allow US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive communion for her abortion rights advocacy.

While strongly opposing abortion as a grave sin, Francis has also denounced what he calls the militarization of the Communion.

Last year, McElroy was also among a small group of U.S. bishops signing a statement exposing the bullying often directed at LGBTQ youth.

Francis has tried to make gay Catholics feel welcome in the church, whose teaching holds that same-sex relationships are sinful.

Among the most recent cardinals is Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr of Wa, Ghana, who has spoken out against LGBTQ rights. The African prelate felt ill upon his arrival in Rome on Friday and was hospitalized with a heart problem, the pope told the other cardinals, asking them to pray “for this brother who should have been here”.

Asked by The Associated Press about these differing views among church leaders, McElroy replied that “there are always cultural differences in church life as there are in the human family. And different cultures approach these issues in different ways.

McElroy added, “My own view is that we have an obligation in the church to make LGBT people also feel welcome in church life, like everyone else.”

With electing future pontiffs a key role for cardinals, McElroy, 68, was asked what he thinks of Francis’ statement that the resignation of popes is a valid option.

“In principle, I think it’s a good idea at a particular time when they feel they can no longer carry the burdens of this office, but I think this pope is far from that time,” the prelate said. American. “I believe he sees himself as far away from this moment. What he has is a mobility problem, but it hasn’t affected his mind. I can tell you that he is always on top.

Archbishop Ulrich Steiner of Manaus, Brazil, has become the first cardinal of the Amazon, the vast ecologically vulnerable region of South America on the home continent of the Argentine-born pontiff. In remarks to the AP, Steiner expressed concern about increasing violence in the Amazon.

“But this violence didn’t originate there, it came from outside,” Steiner, 71, said. “It’s always money-related violence. Concessions, deforestation, also with mines, also with fishing.

At 48, the youngest among the cardinals is an Italian missionary in Mongolia, where Catholics number 1,300. Francis “knows how important it is to support these small communities,” said the new cardinal, Giorgio Marengo.

Originally, the pope chose 21 new cardinals. But retired Belgian bishop Luc Van Looy declined the honour, citing his own inadequate handling of cases of sexually abusive priests while leading the diocese of Ghent from 2004 to 2020.


Sabrina Sergi and Fanuel Morelli contributed to this report.

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