Pope names 22 cardinals, including seven Italians

Sat, Jan 7, 2012, 00:00

POPE BENEDICT XVI put a heavy stamp on the composition of the next papal conclave yesterday when he named 22 new cardinals, including 18 so-called elector cardinals. Benedict has now appointed 63 of the current 125 elector cardinals. Significantly, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has again been overlooked despite his excellent work in combating Ireland’s horrendous clerical sex abuse scandals.

In what looks like an especially conservative set of nominations, the new cardinals include only three prelates from the developing world, the only geographic area where church vocations are significantly on the rise.

Those of us who believe that an inner Curia cabal would like to favour the election of an Italian as the next pope had that conviction confirmed with the nomination of no less than seven Italians among yesterday’s new boys.

Remarkably, Italy now boasts by far the largest body of elector cardinals, with 30 of the 125 electors being Italians. If cardinals were appointed on a proportional representational basis, this would mean that Italy had a Catholic population of just under 300 million. In reality, about 50 million Italians define themselves as Catholics. As it is, Italy claims 30 elector cardinals as opposed to 22 from Latin America, which represents more than half the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.

There is nothing surprising about Benedict’s choices. He has long believed in a leaner and more European church. Time will tell if the appointment yesterday of no less than 10 Curia cardinals is an attempt to recreate the conditions which led to his own election in 2005. Many Vatican observers remain convinced that Benedict’s election was masterminded by a (largely Hispanic) cabal of Curia cardinals keen to appoint an “in-house” conservative in the wake of John Paul II’s momentous 27-year-long pontificate.

Curiously, two archbishops who featured on the teams of Apostolic visitors to Ireland last year, namely Timothy Dolan of New York and Thomas Collins of Toronto, have been appointed cardinals. Other significant new cardinals include Archbishop of Hong Kong John Tong Hon; the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church in India, George Alencherry and that of the Brazilian, Joao Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Consecrated Life.

The many Irish faithful who have had occasion to visit the Augustinian house of Santa Monica on St Peter’s Square will welcome the appointment of Augustinian Prosper Grech, a long-time consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.