Pope Francis meets pilgrims during an audience at Paul VI Hall, Vatican.
Men on the ground, from different continents and sensitive to “peripheries”: Pope Francis creates 20 new cardinals close to his line on Saturday, an additional step in the preparation of his succession.
This consistory, the eighth of Francis' pontificate since his election in 2013, comes amid speculation about the state of health of the 85-year-old pope, who has been forced for several months to move around in a wheelchair due to knee pain and who has left open the possibility of renouncing his ministry one day.
At 4 p.m. Saturday, under the gilding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Pope will create 20 new cardinals , of which 16 voters – those under the age of 80 – will be able to participate in the future conclave.
The appointment of these high prelates responsible for assisting the pope is scrutinized by observers who see it as an indication of the possible line of the future spiritual leader of the 1.3 billion Catholics.
Sensitive to minority communities, social fiber and evangelization, the Argentinian Jesuit has freed himself from the traditional choice of archbishops of large cities, preferring less expected profiles.
At the end of this consistory, the first since November 2020, Pope Francis will have chosen 83 cardinals out of the current total of 132 electors, i.e. almost two thirds, the proportion necessary to elect a new pope, even if this choice is always unpredictable.
With 40% of voters, Europe remains the most represented continent, ahead of South America and Asia (16% each), Africa (13%) and North America (12%).
Among the notable personalities is the American Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego in California, considered progressive for his positions on homosexual Catholics in particular.
Also noteworthy, the unexpected choice of the Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), who at the age of 48 will become the youngest cardinal in the world.
With simplicity and humility, I listen to people much more experienced than me, he told the press on Saturday, confident that he was surprised and honored by his appointment.
It is a sign of attention for those realities that are generally considered to be in the minority […] we know how important marginality is in the heart of the Holy Father, he added in reference to his country of mission.
Jean-Marc Aveline, Archbishop of Marseilles particularly committed to interreligious dialogue, becomes the sixth Frenchman in the college of cardinals.
< p class="e-p">Other men in the field to put on the purple robe, the Nigerian Peter Okpaleke, the Brazilian Leonardo Ulrich Steiner or even Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, Archbishop of Dili (East Timor).
Three future cardinals already occupy positions of responsibility in the Curia, the Vatican government: the Briton Arthur Roche, the South Korean Lazzaro You Heung-sik and the Spaniard Fernando Vérgez Alzaga.
As usual, all will kneel before the pope to receive their red barrette (square headdress) and cardinal's ring. The ceremony, where France will be represented by its Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, will be followed by the traditional courtesy visit to the Vatican, which allows the public to greet the new princes of the Church.
In the process, a meeting will be held on Monday and Tuesday with 197 cardinals and religious leaders from around the world, whom the Pope wanted to bring together to discuss the new Vatican Constitution, which came into force in June , and the future of the Church. A meeting which, indirectly, will make it possible to prepare the next conclave.
It will be an opportunity to get to know each other better, because we come from all over the world , as well as discussing the reorientation of the Curia, Bishop McElroy said.
Jorge Bergoglio has recently accelerated his reforms of the Curia and its finances, and wants to introduce more horizontality in the governance of the Church, giving more space to women and the laity.