Pope Francis expands ranks of cardinals who will likely pick his successor

The 85-year-old pontiff says he may consider resigning if the need arises


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Published: Sat 27 Aug 2022, 5:59 PM

With a solemn ceremony to create new cardinals, Pope Francis was poised Saturday to formally expand the ranks of churchmen now eligible to vote for his successor in case he dies or resigns — the latter a step he has said he’d consider if the need arises.

Francis also told Reuters in an earlier interview that the idea “never entered my mind” to announce a planned retirement at the end of the summer, though he repeated he might step down some day as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI did in 2013.

Of the 20 churchmen being raised to the rank of cardinal in St. Peter's Basilica, 16 are younger than 80 and thus eligible to participate in a conclave — the ritual-shrouded, locked-door assembly of cardinals who cast paper ballots to elect a new pontiff.

By now, the 85-year-old Francis has named more than half of the elector cardinals. That bolsters the prospects that whoever becomes the next pontiff will share his vision for the future of the church.

In choosing San Diego Bishop Robert Walter McElroy, Francis passed over US churchmen leading traditionally more prestigious dioceses, including San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

Among those selected to be among the newest cardinals is Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr from Wa, Ghana.

Archbishop Ulrich Steiner of Manaus, Brazil, was tapped to be the first cardinal from the Amazon, the vast, environmentally-vulnerable region in South America on the Argentine-born pontiff’s home continent. In remarks to The AP, Steiner expressed concern about increasing violence in the Amazon – "not only in terms of the environment, but also because of drugs.”

“But this violence was not born there, it came from outside,'' Steiner said.

”It is always violence related to money. Concessions, deforestation, also with the mines, also with the fishing."

Increasingly, more of the cardinals are coming from Asia and Africa, while fewer are coming from Europe, where the number of rank-and-file Catholics has dwindled in recent years.

At 48, the youngest member among the cardinals' ranks is an Italian missionary in Mongolia. Archbishop Giorgio Marengo, as the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, ventured that the tiny size of his flock there — Catholics in that Asian country number about 1,300 — factored in the pope's selection of him. Francis “knows how important it is supporting these little communities.”

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