The triumph of the southern hemisphere

Vatican Insider

With the upcoming Consistory Francis is continuing along the path he set out on a year ago: restructuring the Curia and focusing on the peripheries whilst doing away with automatically assigned titles


More than the statistics and percentage analyses, it was the pronouncement of the names of the new cardinals that really signalled change in the upcoming Consistory: most of the choices made came as a complete surprise and were totally unexpected. Pastors from the peripheries of the world, in many cases bishops of dioceses that had never had a cardinal before. This is a sign that Pope Francis intends to continue along the path he set out on a year ago: cutting down on the number of cardinals who are members of the Curia (on 14 February their number will drop from 30% to 27%); stopping the Cardinalate from being automatically connected to certain sees, that is the unwritten tradition of naming cardinals the archbishops of certain sees considered “cardinalatial sees”; and above all giving a voice to the southern part of the world, thereby allowing the true universality of the Church to increasingly shine through.

The names on the list all appear to be very personal choices made by the Pope: the new cardinals learn about their nominations on the television. The Italian, Edoardo Menichelli, found out through a friend who called up to tell him the news, which at first he believed to be a joke. The elderly Sardinian archbishop Luigi de Magistris, a pupil of Cardinal Ottaviani, was in Cagliari Cathedral listening to faithful’s confessions. Other “chosen-ones” were reluctant to believe journalists as they tried to get a statement. Nothing was leaked and even the timing of the announcement caught many by surprise.

Francis clearly wants to restyle the future Conclave, bringing into the College of Cardinals pastor-electors who have first-hand experience of difficult contexts, in countries like Tonga and Myanmar that act as frontier lines, in regions torn apart by violence such as Morelia in Mexico and sometimes in small Churches or in areas where the Church represents a minority. In Italy, the Pope chose pastors from periphery Churches over bishops from the country’s biggest dioceses, Turin and Venice. Menichelli from Ancona and Francesco Montenegro from Agrigento. The former drives around his diocese in an old Fiat Panda and has started initiatives to help fragile marriages. The latter is the Bishop of Lampedusa and is right in the thick of the immigration problem. Three of the new cardinals are Italian, two of them are electors and one is over 80, which shows Francis’ attention for Italy.

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