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Women priests, politics and Communion: what the Pope’s new cardinals believe

What do we know about the new cardinals?

Pope Francis has appointed 17 new cardinals, 13 of whom are young enough to vote in the next papal conclave. Such selections often say a lot about the Pope’s priorities. So what is known so far about the 13 cardinals?

Bishop Kevin Farrell has been one of the Pope’s most outspoken American supporters. He once tweeted, “If you find Pope Francis ‘confusing’ – you have not read or do not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” A former Legionary of Christ, Bishop Farrell was recently named head of the Vatican department for laity, family and life. As Fr Mark Drew has written in the Catholic Herald, Farrell’s style is “away from confrontation and towards dialogue and accommodation” with modernity. For instance, as Bishop of Dallas in 2009 he warned the University of Dallas to avoid what he called “dogmatism, closed-mindedness, judgmentalism”.

Archbishop Blase Cupich was perhaps the least surprising of the Pope’s choices. The Archbishop of Chicago has risen rapidly under Francis: he was a surprise choice to lead one of the US’s main archdioceses, and was then selected for the Congregation for Bishops, the powerful Vatican department which selects bishops. Archbishop Cupich’s admirers say he is pastorally-minded and committed to dialogue. His detractors criticise his stances on the Eucharist and on Catholic moral teaching. Archbishop Cupich says that he would not deny Communion to politicians who promote abortion, or to sexually-active unmarried or gay couples, if they reached their decision “in good conscience”. He has also gently discouraged his priests from taking part in pro-life vigils; on abortion, he has said we should be “no less appalled” by the indifference towards those who “suffer in hunger, joblessness and want”.

Archbishop Jozef de Kesel is also a controversial figure: the Belgian prelate is a protégé of Cardinal Godfried Daneels, who once said: “I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want… This is not the same as the true marriage between a man and a woman, so we need to find another word for the dictionary.” Archbishop de Kesel has been widely quoted as saying in 2010 that women’s ordination “could be discussed, and I hope”(“bespreekbaar en dat hoop ik”) – which, if an accurate quote, would apparently contradict Church teaching. (According to the blogger Mark de Vries, Archbishop de Kesel has subsequently said that the Church was unable to ordain women.) He is also on record as arguing that celibacy should not be mandatory, because in some cases it may be “humanly impossible”. Belgian news sources have reported that the archbishop was called before the Belgian parliament to discuss his attempted appointment to one parish of a priest known to have committed sex offences against a minor.

Archbishop Carlos Osoro, Archbishop of Madrid, has been dubbed “the Spanish Francis”. He has called for “a Church that goes out”. In Spain, Archbishop Osoro is regarded as liberal. Earlier this year, when two of his auxiliary bishops wrote a letter criticising a law requiring schools to provide gender-neutral bathrooms, the archbishop said he hadn’t read it. A profile in the US magazine says of Archbishop Osoro: “He personally believes wholeheartedly in most Catholic tenets, which hold that both abortion and gay marriage are no-no’s, but isn’t in favour of imposing them or proselytizing.”

Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario is the first cardinal from Bangladesh, a country torn by Islamist violence. The Catholic population is less than 0.5% of Bangladesh’s population. Archbishop D’Rozario has told CNS that dialogue with those of other faiths “has been one of our pastoral priorities”. According to one Bangladeshi priest who spoke to Crux, the archbishop “has been very vocal against the social and political injustices that have been going on in the church in Bangladesh. He also has been working hard to rebuild with compassion and mercy the broken families. He has been a good orator. His reflections have been appreciated both by the clergy and the laity.”

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, the third American bishop being made a cardinal, has led the archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2012. Before then, he was perhaps best-known for his role in the Vatican inspection of American nuns. The inspection began amid concerns that some religious congregations were explicitly denying Catholic teachings. Archbishop Tobin, then number two in the Vatican’s department for religious congregations, drew attention to the “depth of anger and hurt that exists among the sisters” in the US, saying it “can’t be ignored”. Last week, according to the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop Tobin lamented“injustice” against women in the Church, and said he is “hopeful” about the possibility of women deacons.

Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, from Mexico, has described liberation theology as “very archaic, if not already dead”. A participant in the Synod on the Family, he said in 2015: “there is a clear awareness expressed in the synodal interventions, both last year and presently, in which doctrine and pastoral ministry go together.”

Archbishop John Ribat is another churchmen from the peripheries: he is the first cardinal from Papua New Guinea. He has condemned the reintroduction of the death penalty, and sounded the alarm about the impact of climate change on his island nation.

Archbishop Mario Zenari has one of the most dangerous jobs of any Vatican official: he is papal nuncio to Syria. In 2013, he narrowly escaped with his life after a rocket attack on the Vatican embassy in Damscus. He has said that negotiating a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict is “not so much an uphill struggle, but it seems that in these conditions is almost a cliff, like climbing a wall”.

Archbishop Sérgio da Rocha is known for his close involvement with Brazil’s politics: at the last elections, he hosted a debate between the eight presidential candidates. “I believe the church should contribute to this important moment in Brazil’s history,” Archbishop da Rocha said. He has said abortion is no solution to the Zika virus: we should “value life in whatever state it’s in”, the archbishop said. He was one of 15 members of the Pope’s council to prepare for the 2015 Synod on the Family.

Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo is also involved in politics – something almost inevitable in crisis-hit Venezuela. He recentlycondemned an attack on four seminarians by a group of thugs, saying: “these anti-social acts [occur] with total impunity, because here there’s no police or National Guard to stop these events.” In 2007, he opposedPresident Hugo Chávez’s constitutional changes to increase the president’s power.

Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga is thought to be doctrinally orthodox. He is best-known, however, for his work in the civil war-torn Central African Republic. The Seleka, a rebel group composed mostly of Muslims, has devastated parts of the country. The archbishop has done a lot of work with Muslim leaders: he collaborated with an imam on a peace mission, seeking help from European politicians. In 2014, he wasinvolved in a fight with a knife-wielding militiaman who was threatening to kill a child.

Archbishop Maurice Piat has opposed “the culture of corruption” in the politics of Mauritius. “Sometimes, the Church can and must raise the alarm,” the archbishop has said. The prime minister has told the Church to keep out of politics. Following the nomination, Archbishop Piat toldVatican Radio that he was “very thankful to Pope Francis for having called me to such a responsibility. I am very touched by the trust he puts in me which is far from being deserved. I am at his disposal for whatever service he will ask of me.”




  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Interesting shift. Perhaps Pope Francis will have a positive effect in pulling the Church ever so little, out of the Iron Age. Conservatives, such as those who provide articles here aren’t going to be very happy with some of these choices.

  2. Paul Reply

    I pray for the Cardinals and Pope Francis. There seems to be an effective attempt to subvert the traditional and biblical teachings of the Church. We need more orthodoxy and less liberalism. Holding steadfast to the teachings of the church, setting the highest moral standards, and leading us to the light not the secular dark is what our Cardinals need to do. I don’t have confidence that ALL of these new Cardinals can or will do that. Again, I will pray for the Cardinals and the Pope, trust in the Divine Mercy of our Lord and that God has a plan for these Cardinals.

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