In a surprise announcement, and almost three months ahead of schedule, Pope Francis on Sunday called a consistory for 27 August for the creation of 21 new Cardinals, 16 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore Cardinal-electors in an eventual conclave, plus five who have already reached the age of 80 or will reach it before receiving the red biretta.
Late August is not a traditional time for consistories (which have usually been held in February, June or November), but the list of new cardinals was preceded by the announcement of a meeting between all the world’s cardinals and Pope Francis in order to focus on the new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium, promulgated on 19 March, which will be in force from Sunday, 5 June, the Solemnity of Pentecost.
The consistory for the creation of new cardinals on Saturday, 27 August, will precede the meeting, scheduled for Monday, 29 August, and Tuesday, 30 August.
A look at the list of the new cardinals confirms the line of thinking Pope Francis has followed throughout his pontificate: many of the 16 new Cardinal-electors come as a surprise, not counting the first three who work in the Roman Curia, which are fairly predictable and namely the prefects of the dicastery of Divine Worship and that of Clergy, along with the president of the Governorate of Vatican City.
Once again, the Pope has chosen to associate bishops from all over the world to the College of Cardinals, preferring the peripheries and overlooking those sees that were once traditionally considered “cardinalitial”.
The three new Curia cardinals come from Europe (Arthur Roche — English; Fernando Vergez — Spanish), and Asia (Lazarus You Heung-sik — Korean).
Two new Cardinal-electors lead dioceses in Europe (the Archbishop of Marseille and the Bishop of Como); five are working on Asia’s frontiers (one of these, Bishop Giorgio Marengo, the Italian Apostolic Prefect in Mongolia, will become the youngest in the college, at the age of 48).
There are two bishops in Africa and four in the Americas (one in the United States, three in Latin America, with two dioceses in Brazil whose titular bishop gets the biretta). Also of note are the Archbishop of Marseille, who was born in Algiers, and the Bishop of Como, who will become the only cardinal to lead a diocese between Italy’s northwest and northeast.
Once again, Pope Francis brought into the College of Cardinals five prelates — two of whom are not bishops — who have already passed or are about to pass the age threshold when they can no longer vote in the event of a conclave. In this mini list, the majority is Italian (three out of five), with acknowledgment among others given to Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, esteemed canonist, and collaborator with the Holy See.
The number of Cardinal-electors thus expands from the limit of 120 set by Pope Paul VI, as has happened several times before. Currently, the College consists of 208 cardinals, of whom 117 are electors and 91 are non-electors. On 27 August, it will grow to 229 cardinals of whom 132 are electors. Looking at the last three pontificates, the College will consist of 52 cardinals created by John Paul II (11 of whom are electors); 64 created by Benedict XVI (38 of whom are electors); and 113 created by Francis (83 of whom are electors).
Geographically, the cardinals will be distributed as follows: Europe, 107 cardinals, of whom 54 are electors; the Americas, 60 cardinals, of whom 38 are electors; Asia, 30 cardinals, of whom 20 are electors; Africa, 27 cardinals, of whom 17 are electors; and Oceania, five cardinals, of whom three are electors.