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Five new red hats in June

By Cian Molloy - 22 May, 2017

Pope Francis will hold a consistory on 28 June to create five new cardinals, all of whom are from outside Italy and from outside the Curia (as the Vatican’s bureaucracy is known).

Indeed, making the announcement as part of his Regina Coeli address in St Peter’s Square yesterday (Sunday), Pope Francis said: “Their origin from different parts of the world manifests the catholicity of the Church, spread throughout the earth.”

The five men come from Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain and El Salvador. They are: Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse and Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane; Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm; Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona; and Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador.

The appointment of church leaders from Sweden and Spain to the College of Cardinals is not that unusual – Stockholm and Barcelona are two key sees of the European church – but the appointment of  Bishop Ling Mangkhanekhoun and Archbishop Zerbo says much about the style of Pope Francis’ papacy and the attention he pays to those ‘on the periphery’. Laos, for example, has been under communist rule since 1975 and less than 2 per cent of the population is Catholic.

His appointment of Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez bypasses Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, who is the titular head of the San Salvador diocese – this is seen as a sign of Pope Francis’ willingness to break with tradition in matters of church governance. Notably also, Bishop Chavez was a close collaborator with Archbishop Romero, who was martyred while celebrating Mass in San Salvador in 1980.

The day after the consistory is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and the five new cardinals will celebrate Mass with the Pope on that day in Rome.

The Vatican

In his announcement today, Pope Francis said: “We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of Saints Peter and Paul, so that with the intercession of the prince of the apostles they are authentic servers of the ecclesial communion, and so that with that of the apostle of the peoples they are joyful announcers of the Gospel, and that with their witness and council they sustain me more intensely in my service as bishops of Rome, shepherd of the Universal Church.”

In the four years of his papacy, Francis has created 60 new cardinals in total, including those announced yesterday. Of these, 49 are currently aged under 80 and would have voting rights were a conclave to be held in the near future.

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