In a surprise announcement on Sunday May 21, Pope Francis said he will hold a consistory to make five new cardinals on June 28. Two are Europeans—from Spain and Sweden—while the other three come from Africa (Mali), Asia (Laos) and Latin America (El Salvador).
The names of the new cardinals-elect are: Jean Zerbo (age 74), archbishop of Bamako, Mali; Juan José Omella (71), archbishop of Barcelona, Spain; Anders Arborelius (68), bishop of Stockholm, Sweden; Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun (73), vicar apostolic of Paksé, Laos; and Gregorio Rosa Chávez (75), auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of San Salvador, El Salvador.
Pope Francis took everyone in Rome by surprise when, after reciting the Regina Coeli at midday on Sunday, May 21 (and praying for peace in the Central African Republic and for the church in China), he announced the new cardinals and said, “their belonging to different parts of the world shows the Catholicity of the church spread on all the earth.” Moreover, by assigning them a titular church in the city of Rome, he said, “they also belong to the diocese of Rome that, in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, ‘presides in charity’ over all the churches.”
It had been expected that the pope would hold a consistory later this year, given that the number of cardinal electors had decreased to 116 (four fewer than the traditional complement of 120 electors in the College of Cardinals), but no one had expected it quite so quickly. One possible reason for the timing is that Francis plans to visit Bangladesh and India at the end of November or early December, which would normally be the time that consistories are held.
This will be the fourth consistory since his election as pope on March 13, 2013. Francis has adopted the same criteria as in the previous instances with his latest choices for cardinals: universality, attention to “the peripheries,” finding humble pastors with “the smell of the sheep,”’ reducing the number of Europeans and particularly Italians in the College of Electors, abandoning the tradition that appointment to certain sees automatically brings with it a red hat, and restricting the number of Roman Curia cardinals by reserving the red hat only for the prefects of congregations (or their equivalent).
His nominations reaffirm his wish for universality, both among the cardinal electors and in the College of Cardinals as such. Electors are cardinals under the age of 80 who have the right to vote in a conclave. Francis has again decided to abide closely to the ceiling of 120 electors established by Paul VI in 1975, and when he gives the red hat to the five on June 28, he will have created 49 of the 121 electors that will have a right to vote in the next conclave.