Pope Francis on Saturday further cemented his legacy, elevating 21 prelates to the high rank of cardinal and significantly raising the percentage of electors chosen by him who will have the right to vote for his successor.
At a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square known as a consistory, Francis “created” 21 new cardinals, the red-hatted “princes of the Church” who are his closest advisers at the Vatican and around the world.
There are now 137 cardinal electors, about 73 percent of them chosen by Francis. This increases – but does not guarantee – the possibility that the next pope will share his vision of a more progressive, inclusive Church.
Eighteen of the 21 are under the age of 80 and thus eligible under Church law to enter a secret conclave to elect the next pope after Francis’ death or resignation. They are known as cardinal electors. The three 80 or over were given the honour because of their long service to the Church.
The new cardinals come from the U.S., France, Italy, Argentina, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Colombia, South Sudan, Hong Kong, Poland, Malaysia, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Portugal.
South Sudan got its first cardinal and Malaysia got the second in its history, a continuation of Francis’ policy of giving more recognition to places he has called the “peripheries” of the world, often those racked by war or where Catholics are a minority.