Pope Francis has appointed 20 new cardinals, 15 of whom will be eligible to elect the next pope, at a special ceremony in the Vatican.
In his address, Francis stressed that the job of cardinal was “not an honorary title” and that it involved working at the centre of the church in a manner that “must be exercised in charity, and is ordered towards charity”.
“Those called to the service of governance in the Church need to have a strong sense of justice, so that any form of injustice becomes unacceptable, even those which might bring gain to himself or to the Church,” Francis told the new cardinals.
Archbishops from Myanmar, Thailand, Uruguay and Cape Verde were among the senior members of the Catholic Church who were appointed cardinals on St Valentine’s Day.
The 15 elector cardinals come from 14 countries.
The five other cardinals are above the age of 80 and therefore already ineligible to take part in the conclave that will elect the next pope.
Germany’s Karl-Josef Rauber was among the group of over 80-year-olds.
Among those taking part in the ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica was retired pope Benedict XVI, who was greeted warmly by Francis.
The new group of cardinal electors includes Nguyen Van Nhon, the archbishop of Hanoi, Yangon archbishop Charles Maung Bo, Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga and two Italians.
The ceremony took place after a consistory – a formal meeting of the college of cardinals – in the Vatican on Thursday and Friday.
In his homily, Francis said that being a cardinal “is not a kind of accessory, a decoration, like an honorary title”.
He warned against being “puffed up with pride”, adding: “Nor are church dignitaries immune from this temptation.”
Cardinals are the pope’s highest ranking aides in Rome and around the world.
Since his election, Francis has often criticised careerism and privileges among the clergy, setting an example by living in a Vatican guest house instead of the large papal apartments used by his predecessors.
The fifteen who received their red “biretta” hats yesterday bring the total number of “cardinal electors” to 125. The five older men were honoured for their long service to the church.
Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia, Mexico, has worked in a region hit by violence related to drug cartels.
Cardinal Francesco Montenegro of Sicily has been in the front line in efforts to help migrants making the dangerous crossing from north Africa to the island of Lampedusa. Thousands have died.
“Those called to the service of governance in the church need to have a strong sense of justice, so that any form of injustice becomes unacceptable,” said Francis.
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