01 June 2022, The Tablet

View From Rome

View From Rome

One of the new cardinals was rejected as a bishop of a Nigerian diocese largely because of his ethnic group. Another is the first Dalit to receive a red hat.

Ever since his election, Pope Francis has applied the upside-down logic of the Gospel to his choices of new cardinals. Last Sunday was no different with his surprise announcement that he would be creating 21 new cardinals, 16 of them under 80, so eligible to vote in a conclave. They include Bishop Peter Okpaleke, who was unable to take up the leadership of Ahiara diocese due to a bitter dispute involving tribal politics, and Anthony Poola, the Archbishop of Hyderabad, the first cardinal from the oppressed Indian caste.

Choosing cardinals is the closest a pope gets to succession planning. Francis’ picks made this his most decisive reform yet of the papal electoral college. Given the large number of cardinals named, some in Rome are wondering whether he is thinking that this could be his last chance to shape the body that will choose his successor.

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