VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Thursday gave the church 14 new cardinals, exhorting them to resist temptations toward vanity and to stay on mission, which he specified means serving the needy instead of their own interests.
Among those receiving the cardinals’ biretta, or crimson-red square cap with three ridges, was his point man for helping Rome’s homeless and poor. Polish Monsignor Konrad Krajewski has handed out sleeping bags to those spending frigid nights on the Italian capital’s streets and driven vans taking the poor on seaside daytrips arranged by the Vatican.
It’s an example of the kind of churchman the pope wants, and the choices reflect Francis’ determination that the church be known for tireless attention to those on society’s margins.
In his homily, Francis told the new cardinals to avoid the “quest of honors, jealousy, envy, intrigue, accommodation and compromise.”
“What does it gain the world if we are living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission?” the pope asked during the ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. He lamented the “palace intrigues that take place, even in curial offices.”
“When we forget the mission, when we lose sight of the real faces of our brothers and sisters, our life gets locked up in the pursuit of our own interests and securities,” Francis said. “The church’s authority grows with this ability to defend the dignity of others, to anoint them and to heal their wounds and their frequently dashed hopes.”
After the ceremony, the pope and the new cardinals traveled to the monastery on Vatican City grounds where Benedict XVI, who retired from the papacy in 2013, lives. The Vatican said that “after a brief greeting and the blessing of Pope Benedict,” the new cardinals headed to receptions in their honor, attended by family, friends and other well-wishers.
The new cardinals include Iraqi churchman Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans.
Sako told Francis at the start of the ceremony that he welcomed the pope’s “special attention” to the “small flock who make up the Christians in the Middle East, in Pakistan and in other countries who are undergoing a difficult period due to the wars and sectarianism and where there are still martyrs.”
A Pakistani prelate, Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, is another new cardinal.
Sex abuse scandals involving pedophile priests and cover-ups by high-ranking prelates in many countries have stained their reputation in the eyes of many rank-and-file faithful.
Addressing his “dear brother cardinals and new cardinals,” the pope said that the “only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ.”
With Thursday’s ceremony, there are 74 cardinals named by Francis during his 5-year-old papacy. In comparison, 77 of the cardinals named by John Paul II during his 26 years as pope are still members of the College. Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, named 75 cardinals.
Cardinals younger than 80 are eligible to vote for the next pope in a conclave, when a current pope either resigns or dies. In this context, Francis’ picks for cardinal dominate that group: there are 125 cardinals currently young enough to be electors, with 59 of them appointed by Francis, 47 of them by Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor, and 19 who were named by John Paul.
There are 101 cardinals who are too old to participate in selecting a pope. These include three who were made cardinals on Thursday.
Francis’ picks have reflected his attention to countries located far from the Vatican after centuries of European dominance of the ranks of cardinals. The batch honored in Thursday’s ceremonies includes churchmen from Peru, Madagascar and Japan, which has a tiny minority of Catholics.
In a sign of the pope’s attention to ordinary people’s suffering, the archbishop of L’Aquila, an Italian mountain town devastated by a 2009 earthquake, is among the newest cardinals.