Pope Francis yesterday urged 19 freshman cardinals to shun rivalries and factions at an induction ceremony in which his scandal-plagued predecessor, Benedict XVI, made a surprise appearance.
It was the first time that Benedict has attended a papal rite since his resignation a year ago. His presence offered spectators the remarkable scene of a former pope, a reigning pope and a potentially future pope in St Peter’s Basilica at the same time.
Rivalries between factions of the Curia — the Vatican’s central administration — were blamed for the scandals that dogged Benedict’s papacy, capped by the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal in 2012 in which his butler leaked personal documents to the media.
Cardinals are the pope’s closest advisers in the Vatican and around the world. Apart from being Church leaders in their home countries, those who are not based in the Vatican are members of key committees in Rome that decide policies that can affect the lives of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Sixteen of the appointees are “cardinal electors” who will join the 106 cardinals who are also under 80 years old and therefore eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope from their ranks. They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti. The non-electors are from Italy, Spain and Saint Lucia.
In yesterday’s ceremony, Francis gave the new cardinals their square hat, known as a biretta, and their ring of office before hundreds of cardinals and bishops.
He urged them to be men of spirituality and service, and to remain united.
“Whenever a worldly mentality predominates, the result is rivalry, jealousy, factions,” he said. “The Church ... needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, communion with me and among yourselves.”
Francis’ choices emphasized his concern for poor countries.
The new cardinal electors are aged 55 to 74. From Latin America are Archbishop Aurelio Poli, 66, Francis’s successor in Buenos Aires, and the archbishops of Managua, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago.
Two are from Africa — the archbishops of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Abidjan in Ivory Coast — while from Asia are the archbishops of Seoul and Cotabato in the Philippines.
Archbishop Chibly Langlois, 55, is the first cardinal from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Only four of the cardinal electors are Vatican officials, chief among them Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 59, Francis’s new secretary of state, and Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, 66, the German head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation.