If anybody was surprised by the list of 19 new cardinals Pope Francis announced Sunday, they have been living on another planet for the past 10 and one-half months. In announcing the names on Sunday, the Pope explained his intention is to recognize that the church is truly catholic (worldwide). Pope Francis noted that the new cardinals “coming from 12 countries from every part of the world, represent the deep ecclesial relationship between the Church of Rome and the other churches throughout the world.”
There were probably many disappointments and a few surprises when the names were read. The list included only four from the Vatican Curia, which typically sees a large number, and only one Italian in the group. Normally, Italians dominate the numbers of cardinals in the college. Ten come from places outside of Europe, some of which have never had a cardinal. Among the disappointed were many from the United States, who had hoped for at least one of several possible new red hats. The only North American name on the list was Archbishop Gérald Lacroix of Québec.
Pope Francis chose three Archbishops over the age of 80 for their distinguished service to the Holy See and to the Church.
These appointments indicate Pope Francis is continuing to shift the leadership of the church from the center to the periphery, a change that first became evident in his appointment of the eight cardinal consultors and becomes more clear with the geographical distribution of the new cardinals.