VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis gave the Catholic Church 14 new cardinals Thursday, exhorting them to resist any temptation toward haughtiness and instead embrace “the greatest promotion” they could hope to obtain: tending to those neglected or cast aside by society.
Among those receiving the cardinals’ biretta – a crimson-red square cap with three ridges – was his point man for helping Rome’s homeless and poor. Polish Monsignor Konrad Krajewski has handed out sleeping bags to those spending cold nights on the Italian capital’s streets and driven vans taking the poor on seaside daytrips arranged by the Vatican.
The choices of many of the new cardinals reflected Francis’ determination that the church be known for tireless attention to those on society’s margins. He also turned his attention to countries located far from the Vatican after centuries of European dominance of the ranks of cardinals, honoring churchmen from Peru, Madagascar and Japan, which has a tiny minority of Catholics.
With Thursday’s ceremony, there are now 226 cardinals worldwide, 74 of them named by Francis during his 5-year-old papacy.
Of that total, 125 cardinals are younger than 80 and can vote in a conclave for the next pope when the current pope dies or resigns: 59 of them appointed by Francis, 47 by Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor, and 19 named by Pope John Paul II.
Three of those named Thursday are too old to participate in selecting the next pope.
In his homily, Francis told the new cardinals to avoid the “quest of honors, jealousy, envy, intrigue, accommodation and compromise.”
“What does it gain the world if we are living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission?” the pope asked during the ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. He lamented the “palace intrigues that take place, even in curial offices.”
“When we forget the mission, when we lose sight of the real faces of our brothers and sisters, our life gets locked up in the pursuit of our own interests and securities,” Francis said. “The church’s authority grows with this ability to defend the dignity of others.”
“This is the highest honor that we can receive, the greatest promotion that can be awarded us: to serve Christ in God’s faithful people,” Francis said, going on to cite the “hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside.”
At a post-ceremony reception, Peru’s new cardinal, Huancayo Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno, a Jesuit like Pope Francis, was asked which pressing questions churchmen should urgently address.
The cardinal told the AP that the “social exclusion” of migrants is an issue “all must address.”
Francis recently has appealed to all nations to be more welcoming to the refugees they can adequately integrate into society.
The Peruvian cardinal also cited the need to fight corruption worldwide. Francis has made battling corruption inside the church also one of his papacy’s priorities.
After the ceremony, the pope and the new cardinals took minivans to the monastery on Vatican City grounds where Benedict XVI, who retired from the papacy in 2013, lives.
The cardinals each went up to greet the frail 91-year-old Benedict, who was sitting in a chair, taking his hand and briefly chatting with the emeritus pontiff.
The new cardinals include Iraqi churchman Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans.
Sako told Francis that he welcomed the pope’s “special attention” to the “small flock who make up the Christians in the Middle East, in Pakistan and in other countries who are undergoing a difficult period due to the wars and sectarianism and where there are still martyrs.”
A Pakistani prelate, Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, was another new cardinal.
Addressing his “dear brother cardinals and new cardinals,” the pope said the “only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ.”
In a sign of the pope’s attention to ordinary people’s suffering, Monsignor Giuseppe Petrocchi , the archbishop of L’Aquila, an Italian mountain town devastated by a 2009 earthquake, was among the newest cardinals.
Other new cardinals include:
Monsignor Antonio dos Santos Marto, bishop of Leiria-Fatima, which includes Portugal’s popular shrine town;Monsignor Desire Tsarahazana, archbishop of Toamasina, Madagascar;Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Manyo, who was bishop of Hiroshima before Francis made him archbishop of Osaka, Japan;Monsignor Luis Ladaria, a Spanish theologian who heads the powerful Vatican office in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy;Monsignor Giovanni Angelo Becciu, an Italian whose diplomatic career includes serving as ambassador to Cuba;Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, the Rome vicar general;The three new prelates too old to vote in a conclave included Sergio Obeso Rivera, Emeritus Archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico; Spanish priest Aquilino Bocos Merino; and Bolivian Monsignor Toribio Ticona Porco.
Francesco Sportellii contributed from Vatican City.