Pope Francis is now expected to announce his first picks for new cardinals on Sunday at the Angelus or perhaps next Wednesday at his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s. That’s according to Italian Vaticanista Marco Tosatti — though Tosatti also passes on speculation that Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville could be up for a red hat since he was elected in November as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But a Kentucky cardinal would be a real novelty. More likely is that Archbishop Wilton Gregory would get a red hat, recognizing the growth of Catholicism in the South and also making the first African-American cardinal. But even that’s a stretch, and it looks increasingly as though the U.S. will be shut out of this round of cardinal-making — Francis’ first as pontiff.
The pope will formally “create” the cardinals in Rome on Feb. 22, as he approaches his first anniversary in office. In a previous post I handicapped the various dynamics at play in the choices facing Francis, and since then Father Tom Reese — who is aces at this stuff — produced the best list yet of candidates, because he went to the best hierarchical oddsmaker in the business — Salvador Miranda. The list has 23 names and the pope has — technically — just 14 empty spots before he reaches the canonical limit of 120.
But it’s nice to be pope, and Francis — like John Paul II before him — could easily go over that mark.
There are good reasons to think he might want to if he hopes to dilute the influence of the Roman Curia — the Vatican bureaucracy that he’s trying to reform — and boost underrepresentation of Catholics in other parts of the world, like his own Latin America.
This graphic illustrates the disparity between where Catholics in the world and where the members of the College of Cardinals come from:
And this graphic shows how different regions, and the Roman Curia, have fared since 2005 when John Paul II died and Benedict XVI was elected:
We will update these as soon as the new names are announced.