Of the 137 cardinals eligible to vote, 99 were created by the current pontiff, that is, 72%. And 29 of them by Benedict XVI and 9 by John Paul II.
After more than a decade of pontificate in which he had not brought Argentines to the Vatican or created almost any cardinals from his homeland, Pope Francis began to take the Argentine Church into account project his legacy in Creole Catholicism beyond his passage through this world. A week ago he surprised by the pointment of the Archbishop of La Plata, Victor Manuel Fernandez – largely his theological mind – at the head of one of the most important ministries of the Roman curia.
This Sunday he announced that will create cardinals to three compatriots: Fernandez himself; the Archbishop of Cordoba, Angel Rossi, and the Cuchin friar Luis Pascual Dri.
Fernandez, about to turn 61, and Rossi, 64, join Cardinal Mario Poli, 75, as Argentine cardinals in a position to vote for a pontiff given that all three are under 80, the age limit for defray. A fourth, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, will reach that age in November.
As for Father Dri, who He was one of the main confessors of Jorge Bergoglio and today he lives in the Buenos Aires sanctuary of Nuestra Senora de Pompeya, he is an honorary cardinalate because he is 96 years old, as is the case of those who currently hold Estanislao Karlic, 97, in Parana, and Luis Villalba, 89, in Tucuman.
The advance of the youth
With the exception that a future pope will be able to replace Fernandez from his new position as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most significant fact is that with him and Rossi, plus the designated archbishop of Buenos Aires and sure cardinal in some time, Jorge Garcia Cuerva, 55 years old, Francisco will have faithful interpreters worldwide and nationally in key places for a long time.
Strictly speaking, it has already been surprising elevating young prelates who are in tune with their profile, as has just hpened with Jose Cobo, 57, who went from being auxiliary bishop to archbishop of the archdiocese of Madrid.
It will be necessary to see how far the imprint of Francis is projected in the college of cardinals, characterized by the promotion of a more open Church – for example, towards the divorced in a new union and gays -, austere and especially concerned about the poor.
Of the 137 cardinals in a position to vote -adding the new 21- 99 were created by the current pope, that is, 72%; 29 by Benedict XVI and 9 by John Paul II. In addition, it must be considered that it made the college with cardinals from peripheral regions more international, to the detriment of the strong presence that Europe had.
The case of Fernandez is particularly relevant not only because of the position he will occupy, but because he is a clearly progressive theologian. Among his immediate predecessors is the German Cardinal Gerard Muller, a severe critic of Francis who, for example, opposed the fact that divorced Catholics in a new union can receive communion under certain conditions.
Fernandez’s choice provoked immediate resistance from the most conservative sectors. But this one is not intimidated. He went so far as to say this weekend that “it would not be bad to rethink” the prohibition of the blessing of homosexual couples.
Regarding the Church in Argentina, the pal expectation seems to be not only that Rossi and Garcia Cuerva be faithful to their religious line, but also that they lead the institution to have a more active role in public life promoting dialogue and the search for consensus.
And although concern for the poor will be central, they must deactivate any focus of ideologization or partisanship, a task that will surely not be easy for them. For now, they will have to contribute to the creation of a better post-electoral political climate in light of Francis’ planned visit to the country next year.