Vatican-watchers were surprised when Pope Francis named 14 new cardinals on Sunday. Given that the number of voting cardinals was already near the limit of 120, it was expected that Francis would give out only a handful of red hats – if any – this year. Eleven of the new cardinals are under 80, raising the number of voters to 127. But this is a short-term situation: in 2019 a dozen or so cardinals will turn 80, losing their right to take part in a conclave.
Attention has rightly focused on the four new Rome-based cardinals. The first, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has a rapport with Francis that eluded his predecessor, Cardinal Gerhard Müller (it may help that Ladaria is a Jesuit). An unassuming figure, the new cardinal will now be pushed to the forefront of theological debates.
The second, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, is a skilful curial insider. His official title, substitute for general affairs of the Secretariat of State, doesn’t fully convey his responsibilities. He is in effect the Pope’s chief of staff, involved in everything from China talks to financial reform. Last year Francis named him special delegate to the troubled Order of Malta. He has emerged victorious from a series of bruising curial battles and, as cardinal, will now wield even more power inside the Vatican.
The third is Archbishop Angelo De Donatis. Last year he became the first non-cardinal since the 16th century to be appointed Vicar General of Rome. One of the Pope’s favourite prelates, he preached the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia in 2014 and earlier this year presented the Pope’s exhortation on holiness to the world’s media.
The fourth is papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who performs acts of charity on behalf of Francis. When he was appointed in 2013, the Pope told him: “You can sell your desk. You don’t need it … You need to go out and look for the poor.” He slept in his office after giving up his flat for a Syrian refugee family, opened a free laundry for the poor and was recently seen handing out ice cream to the homeless on the Pope’s name day. Aged just 54, he possesses a moral authority that could influence the Church for decades to come.
Two other new cardinals, meanwhile, underline the Pope’s commitment to the persecuted Church: Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako and Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi. The red hat will bolster both men as they defend their embattled communities.
Some obvious candidates for the College of Cardinals were overlooked. Mario Delpini, the new Archbishop of Milan, and Michel Aupetit, the recently appointed Archbishop of Paris, may simply have to wait until next year. Others, such as Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, are unlikely to receive the red hat from Francis. The elevation of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, may have been too controversial given his outspoken criticism of Moscow.
When Francis announced the new cardinals, he said: “Their provenance expresses the universality of the Church that continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people on earth.” That’s true, but in Cardinals Ladaria, Becciu, De Donatis and Krajewski a powerful new quartet has emerged in Rome.
The ‘milkman’ cardinal
Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who died last Friday, held several important posts in the Vatican, but he is best known in Britain for his strong advocacy of the Extraordinary Form Mass.
In 2008, at the invitation of the Latin Mass Society, the cardinal celebrated Pontifical High Mass at the throne in a packed Westminster Cathedral. The sight of a cardinal processing into the cathedral wearing the cappa magna had not been seen in this country since the liturgical changes of the 1960s. Later, at a press conference, His Eminence, then in charge of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was given the task of implementing the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, said that he wished to see the Extraordinary Form celebrated not just in a few parishes but in all parishes.
The cardinal may well be remembered in Britain for his cappa magna (as well as, sadly, his ill-judged intervention in an abuse case in 2001). But in his native Colombia he was famous for donning a different garb altogether. According to a well-attested account, he once disguised himself as a milkman in order to gain access to the house of Pablo Escobar. He then called the notorious drug lord to repentance and heard his confession.
Cardinal Castrillón had other endear-ing qualities. As Bishop of Pereira, he frequently walked the streets at night distributing food to the poor and homeless. Later in life, when he lived in Rome, as he walked down the Borgo Pio he would often find visitors to the city falling to their knees on the pavement and kissing his hand. He had a friendly word and a blessing for all of them, and those who met him were left with a memory of a kindly and approachable shepherd of souls.
The cardinal was a deeply pastoral man, as well as a brave one. May he rest in peace.