Pope Francis Elevates 21 Cardinals: Navigating Change and Controversy in the Church

Pope Francis is set to appoint 21 new cardinals in an upcoming Consistory, including prominent figures like Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the strategic dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angel Rossi of Córdoba, and the venerable friar Luis Drl. Notably, at 96, Friar Luis Drl, an iconic confessor, will participate remotely from Buenos Aires.

Of the 21 new cardinals, 18 are under the age of 80, making them eligible to participate in the next Conclave and partake in the election of Pope Francis’ successor. Over 70% of these cardinals have been elevated to their position by Pope Francis, reflecting the Pope’s efforts to reshape the global balance of power within the Church.

The Consistory is closely followed by the Synod of Synods, starting just four days later at the Vatican. Lasting for nearly a month, with a second phase scheduled for October 2024, the Synod will address critical and contentious topics within the Church, including women’s access to the priesthood and complex sexual issues such as gay marriage.

These events mark a crucial phase in Pope Francis’ pontificate, as he navigates internal power dynamics while contemplating the eventual succession. At 86, Pope Francis is in good health but recognizes the inevitability of time. The upcoming Jubilee Holy Year of 2005 provides a potential backdrop for a well-managed succession that ensures the continuity of his reformist agenda.

Among the newly appointed cardinals is Jesuit Bishop Stephen Chow from Hong Kong, a figure of general interest due to his role as a potential bridge between the Vatican and China. Cardinal Chow has expressed interest in facilitating the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two states.

After the Consistory ceremony, the new cardinals were warmly greeted at the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Notable figures include Archbishop Angel Sixto Rossi of Córdoba, a longtime friend of the Pope, and Father Angel Fernandez Artime, the rector major of the Salesians.

As the College of Cardinals undergoes transformation under Pope Francis, there is a notable increase in representation from Third World countries. Of the 242 cardinals in the new College, 112 are European, reflecting a shift in the geographical balance. South Sudan, among others, sees its first cardinal representation.

In the coming ceremony, the new cardinals will receive the cardinal’s ring and the iconic red cape, symbolizing their commitment to the Church and honoring the blood of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the faith.

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