When appointing new cardinals, will Francis follow tradition or continue to surprise?

National Catholic Reporter

Thomas Reese | Jan. 2, 2015

The creation of new cardinals in February may well determine whether the papacy of Pope Francis is a flash in the pan or a turning point in the history of the church. It is the College of Cardinals that will determine whether his legacy is lasting when they choose his successor after he dies or retires.

If they choose a new pope committed to the reforms begun by Francis, all will be well. If not, church leaders, especially the Roman Curia, could try to return to business a usual.

This has happened before. Pope John XXIII was a reforming pope who called the Second Vatican Council, but he was not strategic when it came to the appointment of cardinals. He appointed many people who were not totally on board with the council. People joked that he made his enemies cardinals, especially those in the Curia. He even broke with tradition by making archbishops of all of the cardinals working in the Curia.

Judging by the appointments he made last year, Pope Francis is not making this mistake. In order to understand the radical nature of his 2014 appointments, one must remember the written and unwritten rules governing the appointment of cardinals.

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