Naming cardinals is the closest thing a Pope has to succession planning. Last Sunday, on the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, Francis announced 14 new cardinals. They will receive their red hats at a ceremony in the Vatican on 29 June. He has now appointed 59 of the 125 cardinals – or 47 per cent of them – who are less than 80 years old, and so entitled to vote for his successor in a future conclave.
Pentecost was an appropriate day for Francis’ announcement; throughout his five-year papacy, when selecting “Princes of the Church” – not a phrase he is much inclined to use – he has tried to follow the spirit that “blows where it will”. His new choices mean that everything is now set for a conclave to choose his successor that could again astonish the world, as it did in 2013 with the choice of the cardinal from Buenos Aires.