Pope installs new cardinals, together with the primary African American
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: First African American cardinal seeks common ground with the Biden administration
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis installed 13 new cardinals on Saturday, including the first African-American to hold the high rank, further expanding the pope’s influence on the group that will one day elect his successor.
The cardinals have been installed in a ceremony known as the consistory, which has fallen significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of the usual thousands, only 10 guests per cardinal were allowed into St. Peter’s Basilica as the Pope gave the men their ring and the traditional red hat known as the Biretta.
Nine of the 13 are under 80 years of age and under church law are entitled to conclude a secret conclave to elect the next Pope from among themselves after Francis dies or has resigned.
It was the seventh consistory of Francis since his election in 2013. He has now appointed 57% of the 128 cardinal voters, most of whom share his vision of a more inclusive and outward-looking Church.
So far he has appointed 18 cardinals from mostly distant countries who have never had one, almost all from developing countries. In the consistory on Saturday, Brunei and Rwanda received their first cardinals.
While Europe still has the largest share of cardinal voters at 41%, it has fallen from 52% in 2013 when Francis became the first Latin American Pope.
With each consistory, Francis has increased the chances that his successor will be a different non-European, as he has spiced up the Church in places where it is either a tiny minority or where it is growing faster than in the stagnant West.
The nine new voters come from Italy, Malta, Rwanda, the United States, the Philippines, Chile, Brunei and Mexico.
In his sermon, Francis urged the men to keep their eyes on God, to avoid any form of corruption and not to succumb to a “worldly spirit” that can accompany the prestige and power of their new rank.
Everyone in the basilica except the Pope wore a mask. Each new cardinal removed theirs as they kneeled before him for investment.
Wilton Gregory, the 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington, DC, becomes the first African-American cardinal at a time the United States is investigating racial relations after police kill unarmed blacks.
Gregory hit the headlines in June when he blew up President Donald Trump’s visit to a Catholic shrine in Washington after police and soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets to evacuate protesters to make Trump face a historic church in Washington Bible could be photographed.
Gregory said he found it “confusing and reprehensible that any Catholic institution should allow itself to be so outrageously abused and manipulated”.
Catholic Conservatives condemned Gregory and sided with Trump.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Gregory said he wanted to find common ground with US President-elect Joe Biden despite disagreements on issues such as abortion.
Gregory was one of the few new cardinals who were quarantined for about ten days in their rooms in the Vatican guest house, where the Pope also lives. Cardinals from Brunei and the Philippines were unable to travel and will receive their ring and hat from a papal delegate.
Four non-voters over 80 received the honor after a long service in the Church. The most prominent is Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, an Italian-American who has worked around the world and is one of the Church’s best experts on immigration.