Pope Francis has created 13 new cardinals, including a first African-American Archbishop from Washington, putting his personal stamp on the body that will one day choose his successor.
Under the dome of the St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, the cardinals knelt one by one at the feet of the head of the Vatican, who placed quadrangular scarlet cap, or biretta, on their heads.
The new cardinals are a diverse group, with members hailing from Italy, Malta, the Philippines, Chile, Brunei, Mexico, and the United States. And for the first time, the cardinals included an African-American. The 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington, Wilton Gregory, said he was a “symbolic individual” for being made the first African-American cardinal.
This reflects not only the changing face of the church of 1.3 billion faithful, but also the Jesuit pope’s belief in priests focused on the world’s poor.
Since Francis’ election in 2013, the Argentine pope, the first from the Americas, has created 95 new cardinals in ceremonies known as consistories.
Those named by Francis now make up the majority of those cardinals under the age of 80 who will elect his successor.
That ups the chances that the Pope’s quest to make the Roman Catholic Church more inclusive, transparent, and more focused on defending the most vulnerable members of society, may continue after his passing.
During the ceremony, the Pope warned the new cardinals not to be seduced by their new “eminence” and stray from being “close to the people”.
“The scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ’eminence’. When you feel that, you will be off the road”, he said.