Six new cardinals appointed by pope come from outside Europe


IN A surprise move, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday appointed six new cardinals, his second set of such nominations this year. Even more surprisingly, none of the six are European, but rather come from Colombia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines and the US.

The cardinals are: Archbishop James Harvey (US), prefect of the papal household; Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia, Ruben Salazar Gomez; Archbishop of Manila, Philippines, Luis Antonio Tagle; Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai; and the Major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.

The cardinals are due to be “elevated” at a consistory on November 24th, just eight months after Pope Benedict appointed 22 cardinals in February.

On that occasion, 16 of the cardinals were European, 10 were curia officials and seven were Italians.

Many commentators said this left Europe and, in particular, Italy with a disproportionately high proportion of cardinal electors (those under the age of 80).

Proportional representation plays no role in appointments to the College of Cardinals, but, following yesterday’s nominations, the Europe/rest-of-the-world balance has shifted a little.

The new college will still be Europe-dominated, with 62 of the 120 elector cardinals coming from Europe, while 21 are Latin American, 14 North American, 11 African, 11 Asian and one from Oceania.

Italy continues to have the largest group of cardinal electors, at 28 out of 120, while all six new cardinals are under 80 and thus entitled to vote in a forthcoming conclave.

It may well be that the pope’s choices were determined not by geographic considerations but rather by the issue of inter- religious dialogue.

Indian archbishop Thottunkal is on the front line of dialogue with Hinduism, while both Bechara Boutros Rai, the patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church in the Lebanon, and Archbishop Onaiyekan from Nigeria, come from countries where relations between Christians and Muslims are often tense, if not violent.

The appointment of Archbishop Harvey has inevitably prompted speculation.

As head of the papal household, he was the direct superior to Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, who was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing documents from the pontifical apartment.

Senior papal spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi yesterday denied that Archbishop Harvey’s forthcoming appointment as archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome, in any way represented a “sideways promotion”.