The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The pope makes a statement. 23 statements, actually.

The perspicacious John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter has perhaps the best analysis of the pope’s picks for the new cardinals:

Whenever a pope names new members to the church’s most exclusive club, he inevitably makes a statement – about his own priorities, about where the church is going, and ultimately about the sort of men in line to take over when he’s gone.

So, what statements did Pope Benedict XVI make this morning by naming 23 new cardinals, including 18 under the age of 80 and hence eligible to vote for the next pope?

At least seven come to mind:

• He recognized the shifting center of the Catholic population in the United States from the East Coast to the Southwest;
• He signaled the importance of the American church by giving the country two new cardinals, although the U.S. is already over-represented in the College of Cardinals relative to its Catholic population;
• He did not redistribute cardinals to the global South, where two-thirds of Catholics now live, but instead slightly bolstered the over-representation of Europeans;
• He kept the percentage of Vatican officials among electors roughly the same at 25 percent;
• He indicated his sympathy for Iraq by naming the Chaldean patriarch a cardinal;
• He confirmed his concern for the intellectual life of the church by giving honorary red hats to two former rectors of flagship pontifical universities in Rome;
• He introduced at least two new candidates to become the first pope from the global South: Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, and John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya.

Benedict XVI named Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of Glaveston-Houston to the College of Cardinals rather than the man widely presumed to be next in line among the Americans, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. That choice undoubtedly reflects the shifting demographics of American Catholicism, away from its traditional centers on the East Coast and towards the Southwest. According to estimates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, almost 40 percent of Catholics in the United States today are Hispanic, overwhelmingly concentrated in the “Sun Belt” states of the South and Southwest.

That, however, is not the only level of significance to the selection. DiNardo worked in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops from 1984 to 1990, where he served under Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, at the time the congregation’s secretary. Rigali is widely seen as the preeminent “kingmaker” among American prelates; when he was recently appointed as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, one of his brother American cardinals said on background that the move “rendered official what has been unofficial,” meaning that Rigali is the American heavyweight best positioned to influence bishops’ appointments in the United States. The choice of DiNardo will likely bolster that impression.

Benedict’s decision to name two new American cardinals can also be read as a further sign of the importance he attaches to the church here, given that the United States will now have 17 cardinals, including 13 electors, the second-largest number in both categories after the Italians. The United States has more cardinals than Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines combined, the other three largest Catholic countries on earth, despite the fact that those three nations contain 315 million Catholics to the roughly 70 million in the United States.

There’s much more at the link, including more details about the new cardinals from Europe.

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