Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals Saturday, nine of whom hail from the emerging world, as he tries to balance a College of Cardinals that disproportionately favors the U.S. and Europe. New cardinals were named from Vietnam, Panama, Myanmar and Tonga, the Polynesian nation’s first ever.
In a Saturday ceremony within St. Peter’s Basilica, the 78-year-old pontiff elevated the men to cardinal, placing the square, red biretta on their heads. The hat’s color symbolizes blood shed by Christian martyrs.
The new “Princes of the Church” were selected from a wide range of countries. The first pope from the Americas gave no new cardinals to the U.S. and few to Europe during the last ceremony in January as he tries to better represent countries more densely populated by Catholics.
"All of us, myself first," should be guided by St. Paul's famous First Letter to the Corinthians, beginning with the phrase "Love is patient, love is kind,” Pope Francis said, according to the Catholic News Service. A focus on what love means is important, the pope said, because every Christian ministry "flows from charity, must be exercised in charity and is ordered toward charity."
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also made a rare appearance at Saturday's ceremony.
Pope Francis’ choices “reflect his concern for the poor,” the Wall Street Journal said. The choices also reflect “his desire to give greater voice to local churches and his support for clerics working close to the faithful.”
While the cardinals’ most important job is electing a new pontiff, they also advise popes. As the Argentina-born Pope Francis seeks to push forward reforms expected to take place this year, and shift decision-making away from the Roman Curia, the Vatican administration, known for its political nature, that has been involved in a number of scandals. Cardinals called for a “shake-up” of the Curia when Pope Francis was elected in 2013. The pontiff is readying an overhaul of the administration to begin this year.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the U.S. in September, with Washington, New York City and Philadelphia on his itinerary.