Pope Francis Names 20 New Cardinals From 18 Nations to Reflect Diversity

Pope Francis, who's 78th birthday is today, waves as he leaves at the end of his general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, December 17, 2014.
Pope Francis, who's 78th birthday is today, waves as he leaves at the end of his general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, December 17, 2014. | (Photo: Reuters/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis on Sunday announced the names of 20 new cardinals from 18 countries, many of whom come from developing nations and small dioceses which have never before had a cardinal, to reflect the diversity of the church. None of them is from the United States or Canada.

The selection of Francis include bishops from the island nations of Cabo Verde and Tonga, archbishops from the Asian countries of Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam; and the leader of an Italian community dealing heavily with refugees and migrants from Africa, according to National Catholic Reporter.

Seven of the new cardinals are from Europe, five from Latin America, three from Asia, three from Africa and two from Oceania, while none from the United States or Canada.

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The pontiff made the announcement in his Sunday Angelus address to thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square after his recitation of the traditional Marian prayer.

The new group of cardinals "shows the indelible tie with the Church of Rome to churches in the world," The Associated Press quoted Pope Francis as saying.

Of the 20 new cardinals, 15 are electors under the age of 80, and five are bishops who are over the age of 80 and who will be elevated due to their "pastoral charity in the service of the Holy See and of the Church."

While there were 12 "vacancies" in the category of cardinals under 80 and eligible to vote for his successor, Francis named 15, ignoring the tradition of limiting to a total of 120 the number of such cardinals.

The formal ceremony to appoint the new cardinals will be held on Feb. 14 at the Vatican.

The primary role of the cardinals, who are also known as the "princes of the church," is to gather in secret conclave after the death or resignation of a pope to elect his successor.

"The new nominations confirm that the pope is not bound to the traditions of the Cardinalatial Sees which were motivated by historical reasons in different countries in which the Cardinalate was considered almost automatically connected to such sees," Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying. "Instead, we have several nominations of Archbishops and Bishops of sees that in the past have not had a Cardinal."

Among the new cardinals is Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, who has said the church must change its language to give "hope and encouragement," in relation to the last year's Vatican conference on controversial family issues, including gay marriage and divorced Catholics.

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