Pope Francis said Sunday he will create 13 new Catholic cardinals next month, including the first African-American “prince of the church” and a Franciscan preacher to the papal household.
Francis made the surprise announcement from his window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his weekly Angelus, and said they would be appointed on November 28.
It will be “an unusual and possibly unprecedented ceremony, held during the midst of a continuing global pandemic”, Vatican expert Joshua McElwee said in the National Catholic Reporter.
The Vatican has been on high alert over the health of the pope, 83, after a flurry of cases within the tiny city state, and such a ceremony could present risks for elderly participants.
Nine of the new cardinals are under 80 years old, and therefore eligible to take part in the secret conclaves to elect the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who is chosen from among them.
As well as having that key role, cardinals, who wear red hats and are known as “princes” of the Roman Catholic church, often also hold the highest administrative offices in the centuries-old institution.
The 13 include Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, 72, a progressive who will be the first African-American cardinal, and Italian priest Raniero Cantalamessa, 84, who has served as preacher to three papal households.
Italian bishop Marcello Semeraro, a Francis ally who took over as head of the Vatican’s saint-making department after his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Becciu was fired over embezzlement allegations, also gets a red hat.
So will Maltese Mario Grech, the head of the Synod of Bishops, a papal advisory body which Francis has been using to help him implement his pastoral renewal of the church.
Others include Antoine Kambanda, the Archbishop of Kigali in Rwanda; Jose Fuerte Advincula, the Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines; and Celestino Aos Braco, the Archbishop of Santiago in Chile.