Pope Francis Creates 21 New Cardinals: A Diverse Synodal Chessboard

Pope Francis’ Creation of 21 New Cardinals

On September 30, 2023, Pope Francis made a significant addition to the Catholic Church by creating 21 new cardinals.

These cardinals, hailing from 15 different countries and five continents, represent a diverse range of individuals within the Church.

Balancing the U.S. Church Representation

In an effort to balance ecclesiastical interests, Pope Francis allowed the U.S. Church to send five representatives to the synod.

Among these representatives is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Additionally, the Pope personally selected four other cardinals from the U.S.:

Cardinals Robert McElroy, Wilton Gregory, Sean O’Malley, and Blase Cupich. Cardinal Joseph Tobin, an ordinary member of the synod secretariat, completes the American delegation.

This selection reflects a subtle move to harmonize interests across the American episcopate.

Inclusivity in Cardinal Selection

Notably, Pope Francis extended his invitation to Cardinal Victor Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and included the immediate past prefects, Cardinals Luis Ladaria Ferrer and Gerhard Müller.

While Cardinal Ladaria could not attend, this gesture demonstrates a deliberate commitment to inclusivity that has not gone unnoticed.

Potential Papal Candidates

One of the intriguing aspects of this synod is the potential emergence of “papabili” — candidates for the papacy.

Cardinal Cristóbal López, the archbishop of Rabat, is a name that has occasionally been associated with papal candidacy.

Similarly, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, already a cardinal, could bolster the candidacy of the current prefect of the Dicastery of Oriental Churches.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a synod ordinary council member, holds a vital role in the mission in Ukraine and Russia, making him a well-known cardinal and a possible papal candidate.

Observing Cardinal Actions

The actions and interventions of these cardinals during the synod will likely be closely observed, even though the discussions may remain limited in their public communication.

Absence of Cardinal Péter Erdő

One notable absence in the synod is Cardinal Péter Erdő, who previously served as the general relator of the Synods on the Family 2014-2015 and is highly esteemed among his fellow cardinals.

His absence raises questions about its potential impact on the papal election process.

The Synod’s Significance

The Synod of Bishops aims to capture the collaborative spirit of the Second Vatican Council, where prelates and cardinals from around the world convened to discuss Church affairs.

The cardinals attending the gathering are tasked with acquainting themselves with each other, engaging in conversations, and gaining a deeper understanding of one another.

While the precise influence of these interactions on the next papal election remains to be seen, this synod serves as a unique platform for cardinals to gather in Rome, the heart of Christianity, and gain insights into its inner workings.

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