VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis appointed 13 new cardinals in a surprise move on Sunday, again putting his stamp on the future of a Church he wants to be more open as most of those named are considered progressive on social issues.
Ten of them are under the age of 80 and may one day be called to elect Francis’ successor, increasing the possibility that the next pope will continue his policies.
The new group, which includes bishops and archbishops from Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Guatemala, will be installed at a ceremony known as a consistory on Oct. 5.
The 10 who are under 80 years old and thus eligible to vote in an eventual conclave after Francis, 82, dies or retires, are known as cardinal electors. The other three were given the honour for their long service to the Church.
Francis, who made the announcement at his weekly Sunday address, has now chosen about 70 of the nearly 130 electors. The others were chosen by previous popes. The address was delayed by 10 minutes because Francis was stuck in a Vatican elevator and had to be rescued by fire fighters.
Many of those named on Sunday have reputations as progressives on social issues such as immigration and share Francis’ support of dialogue with non-Christians.
Francis again chose to give the prestigious and influential rank to a number of men from poor or developing nations, places he calls the periphery of the Church and which he feels deserve more attention.
This has further shifted the make-up of the College of Cardinals away from Europe to Africa, Asia and Latin America, increasing the possibility that his successor also will be a non-European.
One of the new cardinals, Czech-born Canadian Jesuit priest Michael Czerny, is the Vatican’s expert on migration, a choice reflecting Francis’ defence of immigrants.
Three others reflect the significance he attaches to relations with Islam. Archbishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, head of the Vatican’s department for inter-religious dialogue; the other two are the archbishops of Rabat in Morocco and Jakarta in Indonesia, both predominantly Muslim countries.
The sole Italian in the group of 10 electors, Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, hails from the progressive Rome-based Sant’ Egidio Community, which helps the poor, migrants, homeless and refugees around the world.
Another, Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg has taken strong stands against Europe’s populist leaders, saying this year that they were playing an “ignoble game” by fomenting fear of migrants and Muslims. Hollerich called Steve Bannon, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former strategist, a “priest” of populism.