By the time the third Consistory of Francis’ pontificate is complete (the two previous ones were held on February 22, 2014 and February 14, 2015) – on November 19 – the Pope will have created a total of 56 cardinals: 12 non-voters (21%) and 44 voters (79%).
opinion on the criteria the Holy Father followed in deciding who to
appoint to the College of Cardinals is not easy. Many of these criteria
are often reasons or motivations that shall remain in the Pope’s heart
What the author of this article proposes instead, is an
external reading from an observer or analyst’s point of view, based on
comparative considerations, where two elements acquire importance:
firstly, the biography and pastoral trajectory of the individuals chosen
and secondly, the geographical location of the ecclesial communities of
In Francis’ case, two considerations that have come up again and
again since Sunday, say little or nothing.
The first, which is almost
litany-like, refers to the internationalisation of the College of
Cardinals as a visible expression of the universality of the Church.
This is now a given in every Consistory, particularly since Pius XII’s
pontificate - he created 56 cardinals from 25 countries.
rule has been inexorably repeated in all Consistories held until now.
John XXIII - 5 Consistories - 52 cardinals from 22 nations
Paul VI - 6 Consistories - 143 cardinals from 52 nations
John Paul II - 9 consistories - 231 cardinals from 69 nations
Benedict XVI - 5 Consistories - 90 cardinals from 37 nations
The second consideration, which doesn’t really hold water, is summed
up in the slightly misused expression “cardinals from the periphery”.
“Periphery” tends to refer to a geographical concept but this sense
clearly falls short of Pope Francis’ intended use of the word. His
interpretation of the word “periphery” is much more articulate and
complex and certainly not limited merely to the geographical dimension
(the distant ... that can be such while living in the heart of the
The periphery also refers to critical situations
where humanity bleeds, where injustice and exploitation degrade human
dignity; where conflict and violence threaten peace and co-existence;
where silence, indifference and hypocrisy conceal the truth about the
evils of the world.
Hence, the cardinals created by Pope Francis appear different to
those created in the past. Here are some of their traits and profiles:
The person - the shepherd
1) A strong inclination toward the person and the shepherd’s path,
the person. It is not the diocese, its importance, size, influence,
prestige and power that captivate the Pope. His choice seems to have a
non-negotiable basis, which is the man, the priest, the pastor.
custom according to which it was the dioceses that determined a
cardinal’s see, seems to be a thing of the past for now.
takes precedence over the structure. This begins a fundamental new
chapter we shall discuss at some other point, which the Pope has been
expanding on each day: what kind of pastor responds better to the
present and future situation of the Church (evangelists and not
College of Cardinals: communion of equals
2) It would seem that Pope Francis has chosen to translate
internationalisation and universality dynamics into the inclusion of the
small and the least, giving visibility to the forgotten or marginalised
and equal ecclesial dignity, regardless of the fact that weak
communities do not possess power, influence, fame, prestige and
Thus, the College of Cardinals is not seen as a geographical
list that distinguishes between “big” and “small” but as a communion of
peers and equals, in short, sister churches that are sister churches in
practice, not just in words.
Cardinals, the face of the Church and of the world
3) Then there is a third profile to consider, which should be viewed
as a consequence of the previous two.
A College of Cardinals that
increasingly reflects the global face of the Church, and thus the
ecclesial dynamics, which are moving at a dizzying pace, showing growth
and decline, challenges and priorities, impulses and delays.
In short, a
College of Cardinals that mirrors the world and its current state, more