2015-02-14 15:58:00

Consistory : Cardinals from the peripheries

(Vatican Radio)  Among the 20 new cardinals created by Pope Francis Saturday are men drawn from churches on the peripheries of the ecclesial and geographical world. The director of Vatican Radio English section, Sean Patrick Lovett, takes a closer look at some of the newest members of the College of Cardinals: 


Just how far do the peripheries of the Church extend? 

For an answer, you could go to Google maps or get out your world atlas. Or you could simply look at the countries from which the 20 new cardinals come, and see for yourself: from Mozambique to Mexico, from Thailand to Tonga. And, if you like alliteration, then why not continue: from Portugal to Panama, from Vietnam to Cape Verde. Not that I mean to leave out Burma, Uruguay and the furthest of them all – New Zealand. And did I mention Ethiopia, Spain and, of course, Italy? 

At my count that’s 14 countries in all, covering every continent on the globe – 20 men who, in Pope Francis’ words, “manifest the indissoluble link between the Church of Rome and the particular Churches present in the world”. 

And some of these Churches are “particular” indeed: the Church in Myanmar (which used to be Burma when I was at school) celebrated its 500th anniversary last year – yet Yangon Archbishop, Charles Maung Bo, is the nation’s first-ever Cardinal. Cape Verde too, a string of volcanic islands off the coast of northwest Africa, received its first Cardinal in Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado. 

As did the Kingdom of Tonga, another archipelago of 176 islands in the South Pacific where 90% of the population are Christian. The Queen herself came to Rome to witness the installation of Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi who, at 53 years of age, becomes the youngest member of the College of Cardinals. He is a man of many records: the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, of which he is President, covers the largest territory of any Bishops’ Conference in the world. 

One of the three new Italian Cardinals is Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop of Agrigento in Sicily. His archdiocese includes the tiny island of Lampedusa, infamously in the news because of the thousands of refugees who have drowned off its coast trying to make the perilous crossing from North Africa. In July 2013 he welcomed the newly-elected Pope Francis when he visited Lampedusa on his first pastoral visit outside Rome – and where, for the first time, he denounced the “globalization of indifference”. 

And what to say of the man who is Archbishop of the most remote capital city in the most remote country in the world (at least as seen from Rome): John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand?

The only native English speaker of the new group of Cardinals, at 66 years of age, Cardinal Dew applies his Episcopal motto of “Peace through Integrity” to everything from the pastoral care of the Family to keeping the issue of climate change high on the world’s, and the Church’s, agenda. 

They may come from the furthermost corners of the planet, but Pope Francis’ message to all the new Cardinals was the same: “Just as the Church of Rome presides in love”, he said, “so too each particular Church is called to preside in love”. Quoting from St Paul’s “hymn to love” in his Letter to the Corinthians, Pope Francis reminded the Cardinals that “love is above all patient and kind…never jealous, boastful, or proud…never arrogant or rude…love bears all things…hopes all things, endures all things”. 

This, concluded the Pope, is our “spiritual and pastoral programme of life”.

All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.