Italy strongly represented in new cohort of 24 cardinals


VERY MUCH as anticipated, Italians dominated the ranks of the 24 new cardinals announced yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI. No less than 10 of the new men are Italian, leaving Italy with 25 “elector” cardinals out of an electoral body of 122.

Announcing the names at the end of his weekly public audience, the pope said: “The universality of the church is reflected in the list of new cardinals. They come from various parts of the world and fulfil different tasks in the service of the Holy See or in direct contact with the people of God as fathers and pastors of particular churches.”

The list reflects a creeping “re-Italianisation” of the church. Eight of the 10 Italians appointed are under 80, and therefore eligible to vote in a papal conclave, bringing the Italian vote to 25. The naming of 10 cardinals from Italy contrasts with two from the USA and Germany, and one each from Brazil, Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Guinea, Poland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Zambia. Four of the 24 cardinals appointed were over 80, appointed as a reward for their “dedication in service of the church” but ineligible to vote in conclave.

Italian cardinals now represent just over 20 per cent of the vote at a future conclave. The application of fundamental demographic principles to a papal conclave is clearly inappropriate, yet it is striking to reflect that the expression of 24 million practising Italian Catholics out of a worldwide Catholic flock of approximately 1.16 billion earns a percentage vote equivalent to 232 million, almost 10 times out of proportion.

Those who have suggested for some time now that the curia would like the next pope to be an Italian will argue that yesterday’s appointments fit in perfectly with such a long-term plan. All the more so when one notes that seven of the eight new Italian cardinals currently hold senior Vatican positions.

It is, of course, more than possible that the Italian vote might be bitterly divided at any future conclave, given the current absence of any outstanding Italian candidate. In that context, it is worth noting that yesterday’s appointments strengthened not only the “Italian bloc” but also the “curia bloc”, the lobby that was fundamentally responsible for the 2005 election of Pope Benedict.

As of this morning, Roman curia elector Cardinals number 37, over 30 per cent of the vote.

Another obvious aspect of yesterday’s appointments is the fact that just seven of the 24 new cardinals come from outside Europe and the USA.

In other words, the college of cardinals will continue to reflect a Europe-oriented church rather than reflect the distribution of the global Catholic population, two-thirds of whom now live in the world’s south.

Among those appointed cardinal yesterday were: Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith (Colombo), Archbishop Reinhard Marx (Munich), Archbishop Laurent Pasinya (Kinshasa), Archbishop Kurt Koch (Switzerland), Archbishop Robert Sarah (Guinea), Archbishop Antonio Naguib (Egypt), Archbishop Donald Wuerl (Washington) and Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz (Warsaw).

Among the four honorary appointments was the former master of music at the Sistine Chapel, Domenico Bartolucci.