As the Church under Francis tilts towards the east, the Tablet’s Rome correspondent meets one of the newest Asian bishops to don a red hat, Cornelius Sim of Brunei
Sometimes Pope Francis likes to pull off dramatic surprises, at other times he likes to advance his reforms with slow, steady incremental steps. In reshaping the College of Cardinals since his election, he has done both. On 28 November 2020, he will name another 13 cardinals, nine of them under the age of 80, and eligible to vote for his successor.
Throughout his pontificate, Francis has surprised people by choosing unknown bishops from far-flung corners of the globe, bypassing the leaders of bigger, more powerful dioceses who once assumed a cardinal’s red hat went with the territory, particularly in Italy and the United States. After seven and a half years of this papacy, 45 per cent of the cardinal electors will come from the global south, the highest share ever.
The changes he has made to who can be expected to become a cardinal will be one of Francis’ most enduring legacies. But it might be the shift of the Church’s centre of gravity towards Asia that history will come to see as having been the most significant change that took place during this papacy. This is the continent where many see the richest pool of future Church leaders and, at the end of this month, 12.5 per cent of the cardinal-electors will be Asian.