After Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on October 9, Pope Francis named 17 men whom he had selected to join the College of Cardinals. Several of the men are the first cardinals from their homelands, which include Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. Thirteen of the new cardinals are under the age of 80, which makes them eligible to be elected as Francis’s successor.
Cardinals have historically been chosen from globally-significant cities, but Francis’ new appointees hail from a diverse group of countries, including several developing nations. The pope has expressed a desire for a more balanced representation of the global Church. His appointment of Mario Zenari, the papal envoy to Syria, is a nod to the state of the battle-weary country and its need for prayers and support.
His choice of American archbishops may also be representative of his desire for an open-minded and empathetic Church. The 17 new cardinals include three American bishops from the dioceses of Chicago, Dallas, and Indianapolis.
Blase J. Cupich, one of the new American cardinals, especially embodies Pope Francis’s call to mercy. In his role as the archbishop of Chicago, Cupich has consistently emphasized human dignity and solidarity. A grandson of Croatian immigrants, Cupich has voiced his support for undocumented immigrants, as well as other marginalized groups. He has also expressed concern for victims of gun violence and urged lawmakers to create a more effective gun control policy. Cupich has supported Amoris Laetitia, the apostolic exhortation that preaches a more understanding approach toward divorced Catholics and homosexual men and women.
Another new American cardinal, the former bishop of Dallas Kevin Joseph Farrell, has also worked to promote human dignity in his diocese. As the bishop of Dallas, he worked to unify the city’s Latino population with other communities in Dallas. He has also expressed his support for refugees and immigrants, and spoken out against Texas’ open carry law. Farrell also served as the auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., as well as the prefect for the new Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
The third American cardinal appointed is Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph William Tobin. The first cardinal elected from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Tobin has advocated for the resettlement of a Syrian refugee family in his archdiocese, directly opposing Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Pope Francis will formally induct these new cardinals on November 19, the day before his inaugural Year of Mercy ends.