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In the 19 new cardinals we glimpse the future shape of the Catholic Church

The new cardinals reflect Pope Francis’s vision of the universal Church

By on Monday, 13 January 2014

The new appointments shift the College of Cardinals' centre of gravity (AP)

The new appointments shift the College of Cardinals' centre of gravity (AP)

The 19 cardinal-designates who will receive their red hats next month offer a glimpse of the future geographical and spiritual direction of the Church. Seven of the 16 voting cardinals are from western countries. Five of the new cardinals are Italian, a normal “feeder” country. There are no Americans – a break from Benedict XVI’s tendency to favour senior Church leaders in the United States.

The remainder of the new group are people who have had nothing officially to do with the Vatican. Their main concerns have been their duties as local ordinaries in countries scattered throughout the global south. With their appointments Francis is fulfilling Vatican commentator John Allen’s prediction of a “shift of gravity from north to south”.

Aside from the normal honorific appointments reserved for Italians, this selection, which one imagines Francis was very involved with, reiterates the “global parish” outlook the Pope possesses: the Diocese of Rome and the Vatican is not a pyramidion but rather the origin in a circle.

The cardinal-designate from Canada, Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, is a perfect example the kind of figure Pope Francis must have had in mind when compiling the list. He has served on the Canadian bishops’ council for life and family and is a member of the Pius X Secular Institute, which according to its website has “just one concern: that the Gospel be proclaimed through their life”.

After he was named as the successor of Cardinal Marc Ouellet as Archbishop of Quebec, Lacroix said that he would continue the cardinal’s work and “re-evangelise” the province. “One thing is certain,” he said, “I will preach the Gospel. If people expect something else, they’ll be disappointed.”