Pope Francis made a significant mark on the future of the Catholic Church by appointing 21 new cardinals on September 30.
Notably, among the newly appointed cardinals was 95-year-old Luis Pascual Dri of Argentina, who was unable to attend due to his advanced age. The new cardinals hail from countries including the United States, France, Italy, Argentina, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Colombia, South Sudan, Hong Kong, Poland, Malaysia, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Portugal. South Sudan celebrated its first-ever cardinal appointment, while Malaysia welcomed only its second in history.
Pope Francis has consistently chosen bishops and archbishops from non-European nations in recent years to become cardinals, emphasizing the importance of diversity in the Church. “Diversity is necessary; it is indispensable,” Pope Francis affirmed during the ceremony.
Appointments to the College of Cardinals, responsible for electing new popes, allow the pontiff to shape the future leadership of the Church. With 137 cardinal electors currently in place, about 73% of whom were chosen by Pope Francis, there is a growing likelihood that the next pope will share his vision of a more progressive and inclusive Catholic Church.
Of the 21 new appointees, 18 are under 80 years of age, making them eligible to participate in a conclave to elect a new pope. Vatican rules dictate that cardinals over the age of 80 cannot vote in a conclave. With Pope Francis at 86 years old, these appointments further solidify his influence over the future of the Church, as 99 of the 137 cardinals eligible to elect the next pope have now been appointed by him. This shift paves the way for a cardinal appointed by Pope Francis to potentially succeed him in the future.
The latest appointments underscore Pope Francis’ commitment to fostering a more inclusive and globally representative Catholic Church, making it a pivotal moment in the history of the Vatican.