Pope Francis has named 14 Roman Catholic prelates to the high rank of cardinal, the elite group of churchmen who are his closest advisers and can enter a conclave to choose his successor if they are under 80.
There was no Nigerian priest on the list, although three Nigerians are at present cardinals. They are Cardinals Francis Arinze, 85, Olubunmi Okogie, 81, and John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, 74.
The first Nigerian to be appointed a cardinal in 1976 was Dominic Ignatius Ekandem. He died in 1995. Arinze was appointed in 1985, Okogie 2003 and Onaiyekan 2012.
The pope made the surprise announcement on the new cardinals during his weekly Sunday address. He said the ceremony to elevate the nominees, known as a consistory, would take place on June 29.
According to www.vaticannews.va, the men who will receive their red hats from the Pope include bishops from Iraq, Pakistan, Portugal, Peru, Madagascar, Italy and Japan.
The list also includes Polish archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who serves as the papal almoner in Rome, and three Italian archbishops, Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of the Rome diocese, Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Giovanni Becciu, the Substitute of the Secretary of State and Special Delegate for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Pope Francis said their nominations “manifests the unbreakable bond between the See of Peter and the local Churches throughout the world”.
Alongside them, Pope Francis also nominated to the College of Cardinals a retired archbishop of Mexico, a retired bishop of Bolivia and a priest from the Claretian order, all of whom, he said, “have distinguised themselves for their service to the Church”.
The names of the new Cardinals are: Louis Raphaël I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Angelo De Donatis, Vicar General of Rome.
Giovanni Angelo Becciu,Substitute of the Secretary of State and Special Delegate for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Konrad Krajewski, Almoner of the Office of Papal Charities, Joseph Coutts – Archbishop of Karachi, António dos Santos Marto, Bishop of Leiria-Fátima, were also named.
Others are Pedro Barreto, Archbishop of Huancayo, Desiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Toamasina, Giuseppe Petrocchi – Archbishop of L’Aquila, Thomas Aquinas Manyo – Archbishop of Osaka, Sergio Obeso Rivera, Emeritus Archbishop of Xalapa, Toribio Ticona Porco, Emeritus Bishop of Corocoro and Reverend Father Aquilino Bocos Merino, member of the Claretian order.
Appointing new cardinals is one of the most significant powers of a Pope, allowing him to steer the future of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church.
After the June ceremony, Pope Francis will have nominated 74 cardinals since being elected Pope in 2013, according to statistics on the Vatican’s website.
Only cardinals under the age of 80 can enter the closed-door conclave which chooses from its ranks a new pope and are known as “cardinal electors”.
It was not immediately clear how many of the 14 qualify.
Two of those named by the Pope are Bishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Angelo Becciu, deputy secretary of state.
Both currently work in the Vatican’s central administration, known as the Curia.