Popes creates 21 new cardinals, al-Quds included in first
Pope Francis appoints 21 new Cardinals among which is the Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of al-Quds who became the first-ever cleric with this position in al-Quds to be chosen to serve as Cardinal.
Cementing his legacy, Pope Francis, created, during a consistory held on Saturday, 21 new cardinals making the total number of cardinals at 242, with 137 of whom are cardinal electors.
This marked the Pope's 9th consistory; a ceremony held in St. Peter's Square where the College of Cardinals meet following a request by the pope.
The future "princes of the Church", who serve as the closest Vatican advisers around the world, during the ceremony, kneel in front of the pontiff to receive their biretta, a four-cornered scarlet cap whose color commemorates the blood of Christ shed on the cross. Moreover, each new cardinal will also receive the cardinal's ring, to replace the episcopal ring they wore as bishops.
Many have noted that the new cardinals, among which 73%, meaning 99 cardinals, were chosen by Francis, increase chances that Francis' vision for the Catholic church could be carried forward as the next Pope could share his vision of a more progressive and inclusive Catholic Church.
The Jesuit pontiff has been known for championing the faithful from the "peripheries," located at a distance from Rome, and sought to have a College of Cardinals that reflected the "universality of the Church."
During the ceremony, Francis underscored that “Diversity is necessary; it is indispensable. However, each sound must contribute to the common design,” adding: “This is why mutual listening is essential: each musician must listen to the others.”
Among the 21 new cardinals, there are 18 under the age of 80, which meant that they were eligible to enter the secret conclave in which the successor of Francis would be elected, according to the Church laws.
The cardinals come from South Sudan, Hong Kong, Poland, Malaysia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Portugal, the US, France, Italy, Argentina, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, and Colombia.
As such South Sudan for the first time ever, has a cardinal representing the country and culture while Malaysia gets its second-ever cardinal.
Among the cardinals were a few significant names such as Victor Manuel Fernandez, the controversial new head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, Chicago-born missionary, who has now become responsible for vetting bishop candidates around the globe, Robert Prevost, and Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of al-Quds, who became the first-ever cleric with this position in al-Quds to be chosen to serve as Cardinal.
At a time when Christians in Occupied Palestine face increasing tensions and have to defend their churches, such as in the case of Jenin where the Latin Parish was targeted by the Israeli occupation forces, and in Haifa, where Israelis raided their church on several occasions prompting Arab Christians to defend themselves and their faith, it appears that the Vatican could be seeking to play a greater role in the region.
Significantly, it was also clear that the Arab church remained under-represented in the College of Cardinals with only one non-elector Cardinal from Lebanon and one elector Cardinal from Iraq, despite the significance of the region vis-a-vis Christianity and the history of the faith.