Pastors from peripheries to receive red hats in Rome

28 June 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Of the five new bishops given red hats today, four of them come from countries never represented by cardinals before

Pope Francis will formally create five new cardinals today, further ensuring that the body which elects his successor will be made up of pastors on the Church’s peripheries.

This is the Latin American Pope’s fourth consistory, and in each one he’s sought to make the college of cardinals less European and more representative of global Catholicism. 

Of the five new bishops given red hats today, four of them come from countries never represented by cardinals before such as Laos, Sweden and Mali. 

After today, Francis will have appointed around 40 per cent of the 121 cardinals aged under the age of 80 that have conclave voting rights, while also ensuring that greater numbers of prelates from Africa, Asia and Oceania have a say on who the next Pope will be. 

The consistory has, however, been caught up in controversy after cardinal-designates, Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Mali and his country's bishops’ conference were found to have €12 million in various Swiss bank accounts. 

Earlier in the week, journalists were briefed that the cardinal-designate had been hospitalised with a stomach illness and may not be able to attend the consistory. On Saturday, the cardinal was pictured on Twitter having arrived in Rome, while on Tuesday it was confirmed he would be attending. His name was also included in official documentation about the consistory, and it is he who is down to address the Pope today on behalf of the new cardinals. 

While Zerbo is renowned for his peace and reconciliation work, the news of the Swiss accounts will not please Francis given his demand for a humble Church and his demand for transparency in Vatican finances. The cardinal denies any wrongdoing. 

Despite the Pope’s cardinal picks so far, Europe - and Italy - still retain the majority of cardinal electors. In the 2013 conclave that elected Francis, Europe had 60 electors; North America 20; Latin America 13; Asia 10; Africa 11 and Oceania one. After today Europe will have 53 cardinals; North America 17;  Latin America 17; Africa and Asia 15 each and Oceania four. 

PICTURE: Pope Francis embraces Cardinal Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun of Pakse, Laos, during a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 28


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