January 21, 2014

Pope Francis moves beyond Europe with first class of cardinals


Pope Francis named his first group of new cardinals,  often called “princes of the church,” last week. The 19 men will be formally appointed next month. Media reports have observed that Francis, the first pope from outside Europe in modern times, chose several cardinals from the developing world.

FT_14.01.16_cardinals_table_420pxFrancis’ immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, selected 90 cardinals over five consistories during his nearly eight-year papacy. More than half of those (52) were from Europe, and the conclave that elected Francis was heavily European. By contrast, just eight of Francis’ 19 picks are from Europe and six are from the Latin America-Caribbean region, which is home to 39% of the world’s Catholics. Nine of Benedict’s 90 cardinals (10%) were from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The job of each cardinal is two-fold – to advise the pope and elect his successor. In 1973, Pope Paul VI set a ceiling on the number of cardinals who could elect the pope at 120. After the age of 80, cardinals can no longer vote in the gathering of papal electors, called a conclave. The elevation of a group of bishops to the office of cardinal takes place at a formal meeting called a consistory. Most cardinals either lead dioceses, or Vatican departments.

In the middle ages, when the church was democratic, priests elected bishops, who elected the pope. Cardinals were simply the priests leading the most important parishes in Rome. Through the centuries, church leaders decided cardinals should represent the growing church around the world.

Topics: Religious Leaders

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Joy Job Thottukadavil Palluruthy4 years ago

    What ever be the mode of election of pope,
    one thing is true pope Francis of course could elevate the church to a solace
    for modern world which is thirsting for a value based religion.

    Europe and America “one time heart lands” of Christianity has lost their credentials. It is an injustice that majority of the cardinals are still from these lost Christendoms.

  2. Bill Bruehl4 years ago

    For me the most interesting fact herein is that the hierarchy was once elected. The self appointed hierarchy seems to generate corruption that is not tolerable and should be dealt with. Returning to a quasi or even a totally -all the Catholics in their parishes- representative hierarchy would probably lead to consideration of the most needed changes in the church including married priests and women priests. One cannot imagine the self appointed hierarchy making those changes.

    1. Martha Rogers4 years ago

      And this is exactly what we, in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) have done: all clergy are chosen by the laity, and laity + clergy, elect their bishops. We have returned to the model of the early church. Clergy may be married as they were for the first thousand years and they may be women. We have many former Roman Catholic priests who left and joined us, many of whom are married, with families and happily pastoring in their parishes. We govern ourselves via a three-legged stool: House of Bishops, House of Clergy, and House of Laity. Blessings, Rev. Mo. Martha Rogers +, St. Junia’s House, Anaheim, CA.