Focus on poor as Pope names 19 new cardinals
Pope Francis has named his first batch of cardinals, choosing 19 men from Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, including the developing nations of Haiti and Burkina Faso, in line with his belief that the church must pay more attention to the poor.
But advocates for victims of sex abuse by Catholic clergy said they felt let down that Francis didn't unequivocally embrace their calls that prelates who haven't made a clean break with past practices of covering up paedophile behaviour never be promoted.
Francis read out the 19 names as he spoke from his studio window to a crowd of tens of thousands of well-wishes and curious in St Peter's Square.
Sixteen of the appointees are younger than 80, meaning they would be currently eligible to elect the next pope, which is a cardinal's most important task, after the February 22 ceremony to formally install them.
Since his election in March as the first pontiff from Latin America, the pope has broken tradition after tradition in terms of protocol and style at the Vatican. But in today's (NZ time) list, Francis stuck to the church's rule of having no more than 120 cardinals eligible to elect the next pontiff.
The College of Cardinals is currently 13 shy of that 120-mark among eligible-to-vote members. In addition, three cardinals will turn 80 by May. That means Francis chose the exact number of new cardinals needed to bring the voting ranks up to 120 during the next few months.
Some appointments were expected, including that of his new secretary of state, the Italian archbishop Pietro Parolin, and the German head of the Vatican's watchdog office for doctrinal orthodoxy, Gerhard Ludwig Mueller. Two others named also come from the curia, as the Holy See's Rome-based bureaucracy is known.
The Vatican spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said the pope's selection of churchmen from Haiti and Burkina Faso reflects Francis' attention to the destitute as a core part of the church's mission.
The archbishop of Ouagadougou, Philipe Ouedraogo, said he thought reporters had made a mistake when they called him about his promotion to cardinal's rank, as he had no advance word from the Vatican. He also embraced Francis' vision of a church toiling for those on the margins of society.
"I fully recognise myself in his vision and pastoral philosophy that, like Jesus, identifies himself with the poor and the sick," the African prelate said. Ouedraogo, very popular in his homeland, had recently opposed a proposed change to the constitution to allow the country's president, in power since 1987, to run for another term.
Once again, the cardinal's red hat eluded Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. The prelate in that traditionally Catholic country has angered some in the Vatican by strongly criticizing how the hierarchy handled the worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal.
The US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, expressed disappointment that Francis didn't promote Martin.
"While far from perfect, he's better" than some other prelates on abuse, said David Clohessy, director of the group's chapter in St Louis.
SNAP also criticised the choice of Mueller, saying he had a "dreadful" record on children's safety.
Under the tenure of Mueller, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, a fellow German, critics have accused of Vatican's handling of the sex abuse scandal, including letting pedophile priests transfer from parish to parish when complaints were made.
Groups such as SNAP also have criticised the Vatican's recent refusal under Francis to allow the extradition to Poland of a Polish archbishop being investigated in his homeland for alleged sex abuse.
However, SNAP welcomed the fact that three high-ranking archbishops in the United States, where the sex scandal has enraged faithful for decades now, weren't promoted to cardinal.
In Chile, those who had denounced for sex abuse a priest who had long been one of the country's most popular clerics, lamented that one of Chile's church hierarchy was being promoted to cardinal. Dr James Hamilton, the first to publicly denounce the priest, said he hoped soon-to-be cardinal Santiago Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello would "drown in power, boastfulness, vanity, corruption, perversion and greed," adding sarcastically "that is a good cardinal."
Last year, before the conclave that elected Francis as pope, people who said they were abused by the priest asked Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz not to participate, accusing him of failing to act against the cleric, who eventually acknowledged that some of the claims were true. The cardinal issued an apology to some victims in 2011 but denied a cover-up. The Vatican ordered the priest to lead a life of "penitence and prayer."
Ezzati, commenting on his being named to be cardinal, insisted the Chilean church is "learning from its mistakes."
Among those chosen to become a "prince of the church," as the cardinals are known, was Mario Aurelio Poli, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, a post Francis left when he was elected as the first Latin American pope in March. Poli had impressed Francis by earning a degree in social work from the public university of Buenos Aires.
The selection of Orani Joao Tempesta, the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, as a new cardinal was widely hoped for back home to thank him for organizing Francis' wildly popular visit to that city in July.
Whether one continent or country has a large contingent of cardinals is heavily watched when it comes time to pick the next pope because churchmen could vote as a geographic bloc in hope of furthering the interests of their flock back home.
Not counting the four picks from the curia, who no longer represent the church in their homelands, the other new voting cardinals include two from Europe, three from North and Central America, three from South America, and two apiece from Africa and Asia.
Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, in Britain, called his appointment a "humbling moment" of service to the church.
The youngest new cardinal chosen by Francis is 55-year-old Monsignor Chibly Langlois of Haiti.
In reading out the names, Francis said the new cardinals, coming from "every part of the world represent the deep church ecclesial relationship between the church of Rome and the other churches scattered throughout the world."
Francis has stressed that the church hierarchy must not view itself as an elite aloof from its flock but instead serve its flock, especially for the poor, others on the edges of society and disillusioned faithful.
In a sentimental touch in Sunday's selections, the three men chosen as cardinals who are too old to vote for the next pope include 98-year-old Monsignor Loris Francesco Capovilla, who had served as personal secretary to Pope John XXIII. That late pontiff will be made a saint along with John Paul II in a ceremony at the Vatican in April.