Thirteen New Cardinals Serving the Church
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GianPaolo Salvini, SJ

 GianPaolo Salvini, SJ / Free Articles / Published Date:4 October 2019

On September 1, 2019, during the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis announced the appointment of 13 new cardinals, 10 of whom were under 80 years of age and therefore have the right to vote in a conclave. The solemn consistory in St. Peter’s, during which they will receive the red hat, will take place on October 5th, shortly before the beginning of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Amazon.

The new cardinals are: Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Spanish, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Combonian; José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, Portuguese, Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church; Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Indonesian, Archbishop of Jakarta; Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, Cuban, Archbishop of Havana; Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Congolese, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Capuchin; Jean-Claude Höllerich, Luxembourger, Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jesuit; Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri, Guatemalan, Bishop of Huehuetenango; Matteo Zuppi, Italian, Archbishop of Bologna; Cristóbal López Romero, Spanish, Archbishop of Rabat (Morocco), Salesian; Fr. Michael Czerny, a Canadian Jesuit born in the then Czechoslovakia, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, who had already been appointed special secretary of the next Synod for the Amazon.

Together with them two archbishops and a bishop “who have distinguished themselves for their service to the Church” will be joining the College of Cardinals: Michael Louis Fitzgerald, English, former President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and then Nuncio to Egypt until he retired, White Father; Sigitas Tamkevičius, Lithuanian, Archbishop Emeritus of Kaunas (Lithuania), Jesuit; Eugenio Dal Corso, Italian, Bishop Emeritus of Benguela (Angola), of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence.

La Civilta Cattolica

The future College of Cardinals

With the new cardinals, who will become such on October the 5th, the composition of the College of Cardinals will change considerably. At the time of writing,[1] the cardinals, who then numbered 213, were to become 226, of whom 128 would have voting rights, being less than 80 years old. The cardinals appointed by Pope Francis will become the absolute majority. There are still 19 cardinals who were appointed (or “created,” to use the usual terminology) by John Paul II , and 42 were appointed by Benedict XVI.

Also in this Consistory (the sixth of the present pontificate) the rule set by Paul VI of keeping in principle the number of cardinals with voting rights to 120 was substantially observed. Now they will become 128, as has been said, but by October 14th four of them will reach their eightieth year, losing the right to vote, while four others will do so in 2020, thereby restoring the canonical number.

Of those created by Pope Francis, 26 are European, 15 are Latin American, 11 are Asian, 10 are African, 5 are North American and 3 are from Oceania. Overall, regardless of the pope who created them, the Italian cardinals after October 5th will number 23, followed by the United States with nine, and Spain with seven. There are four each for Brazil, France, India and Poland. Portugal will join Germany, Canada and Mexico with three. After October 5th, there will be 48 “religious” cardinals, 28 of whom will have the right to vote. The Salesians will go up from four to five, the Jesuits from two to four, the Capuchins from one to two, the same as the Dominicans and the Holy Ghost Fathers.

The countries represented in the College of Cardinals after October 5th will be 87, with the addition of four new ones. Of these 87 countries, 63 will have at least one cardinal elector in a possible future conclave (six countries more). This is an important trend because it indicates the desire of the present pope to increase, also numerically, as much as possible, the presence of the entire Catholic body among the electors of a future pope.

A curiosity is that in the next College of Cardinals there will once again be a “Romano de Roma,” Matteo Zuppi (the only Italian bishop appointed). The last Roman-born cardinal was Fiorenzo Angelini, who died almost a centenarian (at 98) in 2014. The only new cardinal who had not yet received episcopal consecration was the Jesuit Michael Czerny.

Some outcomes

These appointments confirm some of the choices made by Pope Francis. Places that are apparently of little importance or countries in which Catholics constitute a small minority are privileged, thus affirming the catholicity, that is the universality of the Church and the attention to the “peripheries,” a priority for which Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his preference. In the same way, the priority given to a “Church that goes forth” and that is particularly attentive to the poor and the least is reaffirmed.

The College of Cardinals thus becomes increasingly international, while the representation of Europe decreases to the benefit of Asia and Latin America.

Once again the pope in his choices has not forgotten people who have been subject to religious persecution, such as the Lithuanian Archbishop Emeritus Tamkevičius of Kaunas, who was arrested in 1983 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in labor camps for anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation. He was exiled to Siberia in 1988 until his release after the collapse of the Soviet Union.[2]

The missionary dimension is clearly present in the choice of the new cardinals: 8 out of 13 of the new cardinals belong to missionary orders. Among the missionaries Jean-Claude Höllerich spent many years in Japan before being appointed Archbishop of Luxembourg and then President of COMECE (Commission of the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union); this year our magazine published an article of his on the European elections, in which he denounced the negative aspects of populism and the exploitation of fears, such as that of immigration into rich countries.[3] Matteo Zuppi, of Bologna, and the Guatemalan Álvaro Ramazzini Imeri, head of the Human Mobility Commission of his Episcopal Conference and a lively critic of current U.S. immigration policy, have also distinguished themselves in the defense of migrants. Finally, Canadian Jesuit Michael Czerny has always been active in the social apostolate of the Church. He has long been in charge of the section for migrants and refugees in the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.[4]

The new appointments also clearly show Pope Francis’ desire to increase interreligious and intercultural dialogue. This is demonstrated by the cardinalate conferred on the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Ayuso Guixot, who is involved in particular in the dialogue with the Muslim world (he taught Islamology in Khartoum, then in Cairo and then at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, of which he was also dean). Archbishop Fitzgerald, who is over eighty, was also President of the same Pontifical Council for a long time, and was intensely engaged in dialogue with the Islamic world. In the same group should be placed the Archbishop of Rabat, Morocco, López Romero, a Salesian. These are all people in line with the Document on Human Brotherhood for World Peace and Common Living together, signed in Abu Dhabi (February 4, 2019) by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.

Archbishop Tolentino de Mendonça, former vice-rector of the Catholic University of Lisbon, can be considered a man open to dialogue with the world of culture and literature. He was a protagonist of cultural meetings at various levels, conversing for example with the Nobel Prize winner for literature José Saramago. Himself a poet, in 2014 he represented Portugal at the World Day of Poetry.


[1]. The article went to print on 17 September before the death of Cardinal William Joseph Levada (age 85).

[2]. Cf. his testimony in “I believe that the Lord wants a change in the Church” Private dialogue with Jesuits from the Baltic States” in Civ. Catt. 2018 https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/i-believe-the-lord-wants-a-change-in-the-church-a-private-dialogue-with-the-jesuits-in-the-baltics

[3]. Cf. J.-C. Höllerich, “Towards the European Elections” in Civ. Catt. April 2019  https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/toward-the-european-elections

[4]. Cf. M. Czerny, “The Global Compact on Migration” in Civ. Catt. 2018 https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/the-global-compact-for-migration ; Id. & R. E. Czerny, “The climate, the Church and the COP 24 of Katowice” April 2019 https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/climate-the-church-and-cop24-in-katowice