Pope Francis will name 16 new cardinals this Saturday, two days before an extraordinary consistory with cardinals Catholics from all over the world, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at the Vatican and with an air of “pre-succession”, since those who, in the future, will elect the next pontiff will be present.
For the ordinary consistory, as this Saturday’s meeting of cardinals is called, was scheduled to appoint 21 new cardinals, but there will be one less, since the Belgian Lucas Van Looy decided not to accept the title.
Among the 20 new members of the College of Cardinals, there will be 16 voters for the future succession process – it is a requirement to have less than 80 years of age to elect a pope.
The new cardinals come from all corners of the world, as the Archbishop of Ekwulobia (Nigeria), Peter Okpaleke; the archbishop of Goa and Daman (India), Filipe Neri Ferrão; the Archbishop of Hyderabad (India), Anthony Poola; and the Bishop of Wa (Ghana), Richard Kuuia Baawobr.
Among them are also two Brazilians: the Archbishop of Brasília, Paulo Cezar Costa, and the Archbishop of Manaus, Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, who will be the first cardinal of the Amazon region.
One of the most surprising names among the nominees is that of Archbishop Giorgio Marengo, an Italian from 48 years as the administrator of the Catholic Church in Mongolia, where there are just over 1.500 Catholics.
The total number number of cardinals will increase to 227, with voters moving from 116 to 227 and non-voters from 91 to 95.
Geographical distribution also changed: for example, in 2013, Asia and Oceania had 14 cardinal electors and, after the Saturday consistory, will arrive at 24. Also, some come from areas where there have never been cardinals, such as Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
Europe hasn’t changed much in terms of numbers, from 60 to 54, although there was a drop in the number of Italian cardinal electors, as in 2013 were 21, and at the end of the next year, when some of them complete 83 years will be 16.
Francis left his mark on the College of Cardinals, as he chose 91 of the 132 cardinal electors.
The main theme of the extraordinary consistory on Monday and Tuesday will be, as indicated the pope, to reflect on the new Apostolic Constitution “Praedicate evangelium”, which deals with the reform of the Curia, the administration of the Catholic Church.
Some Vaticanists believe that the pope can also consult the cardinals on other issues important to the institution, such as o the elaboration of statutes that regulate the figure of the pope emeritus.
The unprecedented consistory, the use of a wheelchair by the pope and Francis’ visit, on Sunday, to Aquila – the city where Celestino V, the first pontiff to resign in history, is buried – fueled speculation about a resignation of the leader of the Catholic Church soon.
Journalist Alberto Melloni stated a few days ago in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” that the event has “a clear pre-conclave flavor”, because “the pope has repeatedly announced that the “door of resignation is open”.
“Perhaps the pope has summoned him to check the quality of the names he chose or to create a bit of cardinal sociability: but certainly the cardinals have never seen a consistory like this”, he declared.
Father and journalist Luis Badilla, who runs one of the blogs most followed articles on Vatican affairs (Il Sismografo), he titled one of his articles on the consistory: “Essays of conclave”.
Badilla estimated, according to calculations of reservations in religious residences dedicated to cardinals, that it is possible to foresee “a presence of 145 to 150 cardinals”.
“The meeting, regardless of how it is called and presented, in fact, canonically, will be an extraordinary consistory, the second of this pope, that in 16 and 95 of February 2014 gathered the cardinals to talk about the family and in which only the first ones 14 cardinals created by Jorge Bergoglio were present,” he said. EFE