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Pope Benedict names 6 new cardinals in surprise announcement

October 24, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will create six new cardinals in a consistory that will be held on November 24.

The Pope's announcement, issued at his regular general audience on October 24, caught reporters by surprise. The Pontiff elevated 22 new members to the College of Cardinals at a consistory in February; it is unprecedented to name two sets of cardinals in a single calendar year.

At the time of the February 2012 consistory, many reporters commented that the Pope's selection of new cardinals had increased the influence of European prelates--and more particularly Italian cardinals--at a future consistory. But none of the Pope's 6 latest choices is European, and only one, an American, is currently working in Rome.

The six new cardinals will be:

  • Archbishop James Michael Harvey, prefect of the papal household since 1998;
  • Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rai, head of the Maronite Catholic Church since 2011;
  • Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis (Isaac) Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church since 2007;
  • Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja (Nigeria);
  • Archbishop Jesús Salazar Gómez of Bogota; and
  • Archbishop Luís Antonio Tagle of Manila.

The addition of six cardinals will increase the membership of the College of Cardinals to 212 and the number of cardinal-electors to 120. There are currently 116 cardinal-electors, but two of them, Cardinals Francis Arinze and Renato Martino, will turn 80 before November 24 and thus become ineligible to participate in a papal conclave.

Most of the newly designated cardinals are currently in Rome to participate in the Synod of Bishops. Archbishop Tagle, speaking to Vatican Radio after his appointment was announced, said that he saw the honor as the Pope’s expression of support for the Church in the Philippines. The cardinal-designate said that the Church should listen to the people, “to be first in solidarity with them, not to pretend we have all the solutions.” As a minority in Asia, he said, the Church has learned to approach the public with quiet humility, not as “a triumphalistic, know-it-all institution.”

Archbishop Onaiyekan—who has been proposed as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his work for inter-religious harmony in Nigeria—remarked that becoming a cardinal would mean that he shared in the “universal responsibility” of the Roman Pontiff. Speaking to Vatican Radio about the situation in Nigeria, Archbishop Onaiyekan said that Christians in the African nation “do not see themselves as being under any massive persecution by Muslims.” The tensions between the two faiths, which he conceded are serious, are “caused the reckless utterances and activities of extremist fringe groups on both sides of the divide,” he said. The cardinal-elect said: “We have to work together to make sure that the fanatics do not dictate the agenda of our mutual relations, pushing us to be enemies of one another.”


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