Pope Francis Continues to Boost Diversity in College of Cardinals

Pontiff elevates 14 new cardinals from countries or dioceses rarely represented

Cardinals in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The new appointments come from countries including Iraq, Pakistan, Madagascar and Japan.

Cardinals in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. The new appointments come from countries including Iraq, Pakistan, Madagascar and Japan.Photo: stefano rellandini/Reuters

Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will elevate 14 men to the rank of cardinal on June 29, continuing his practice of conferring the honor on men from the less prominent corners of the Catholic world.

Eleven of the new appointments are under the age of 80, making them eligible to vote in a papal election. Pope Francis will have named almost half of the electors since he became pontiff in 2013. The remaining three, from Mexico, Bolivia and Spain, will become honorary cardinals in recognition of their service to the church.

Most of the new appointments are from countries or dioceses that have rarely been represented in the college of cardinals, including Iraq, Pakistan, Madagascar and Japan.

“Their origin expresses the universality of the church that continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men on earth,” Pope Francis said when announcing the names to a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has named the first cardinals in history from more than a dozen countries, including Laos and Tonga, while passing over appointments in major dioceses in the West.

One of the new cardinals-to-be, Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, the archbishop of Baghdad, has led three Iraqi dioceses since 2002, ministering to a beleaguered and diminished flock in the long wake of the 2003 Gulf War.

The pope will make the archbishop of L’Aquila, a city of 70,000 residents in central Italy that is still recovering from a 2009 earthquake, a cardinal in June, but once again will skip Venice and Turin. In the U.S., the archbishops of Philadelphia and Los Angeles remain without the cardinals’ red hats that traditionally come with their dioceses.

Pope Francis also named as cardinals the archbishop of Leiria-Fátima, Portugal, whose diocese includes the famous shrine to the Virgin Mary which the pope visited in May 2017, and the archbishop of Huancayo, Peru.

Two Vatican officials whose positions aren’t traditionally held by cardinals will also receive red hats: Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who as almoner oversees the pope’s charitable works; and Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the number-two official in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The only appointments that could be considered routine were those of Archbishop Luis Ladaria, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, and Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, who as vicar of Rome leads the diocese in the name of the pope.

The new appointments—the fifth batch appointed by Pope Francis—will bring the number of cardinal electors to 125, five over the limit established by Pope Paul VI.

Fifty-nine of those, or 47%, will have been named by Pope Francis.

Previous popes have also exceeded the limit of 120 from time to time. If none of the current cardinal electors dies in the meantime, their number will fall back to 120 on April 27 of next year, when Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, a former archbishop of Krakow, Poland, reaches the retirement age of 80.