Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In announcing 15 new cardinals today, the pope's "most evident criterion is that of universality. Fourteen different countries are represented, including some that do not currently have a cardinal, and some that have never had one. If the retired Archbishops and Bishops are counted, 18 countries are represented," said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, in a press release issued today.
The statement noted that the "presence of countries that have never had a Cardinal (Cape Verde, Tonga, Myanmar) is noteworthy. These countries have ecclesial communities that are small or that represent a minority within their country. (The Bishop of Tonga is the President of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific; the Diocese of Santiago de Cabo Verde is one of the most ancient African Dioceses; the Diocese of Morelia in Mexico is in a region troubled by violence.)"
With the consistory of 14 February, the number of cardinal "electors" - that is, those who can take part in a conclave - will rise to 123, three more than the 120 indicated by Paul VI.
"The fact that only one of the new Cardinals is from the Roman Curia is also notable, while 'Roman' Cardinals remain about a quarter of the electors." thus, "It is evident," Father Lombardi said, "that the Pope intends to consider the posts of Prefects of the Congregations and of some other very important institutions within the Curia - as, in this case, the Tribunal of the Signatura - as Cardinalatial posts."
The new nominations confirm what occurred in Francis' previous consistory in February 2014 "when the current pontiff did not feel bound by the traditions of the 'Cardinalatial Sees' - which were motivated by historical reasons in different countries - in which the Cardinalate was considered almost 'automatically' connected to such sees."
Hence, the archbishops of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Madrid have not become cardinals, whilst several archbishops and bishops were appointed from sees that in the past did not have a cardinal. This applies, for example, to Italy, Spain, and Mexico.
The youngest of the new cardinals is Archbishop Tafi of Tonga (b. 1961), who will become the youngest member of the College of Cardinals. The oldest is Archbishop Pimiento Rodriguez, archbishop emeritus of Manizales (b. 1919).
Five new "electors" come from Europe; three from Asia; three from Latin America, including Mexico; two from Africa; and two from Oceania.
The pope's first Asian appointee is the current archbishop of Hanoi, Mgr Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon. Born on 1 April 1938 in Da Lat in Lam Dong province, in the Central Highlands, he studied in the Minor Seminary in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and, starting in 1958, at the Pontifical Institute Pius X in Da Lat.
A graduate in French literature, he was ordained priest on 21 December 1967. He served as the rector of the Major Seminary in Minh Hoa Da Lat and vicar general of the diocese in 1975.
On 19 October 1991, Pope John Paul II appointed him coadjutor bishop of Da Lat, becoming the ordinary bishop of the diocese on 23 March 1994.
In 2007, he was elected president of the Vietnamese bishops' conference, a position he held until 2013. On 22 April 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Hanoi, where he became archbishop after only a few weeks, on 13 May, following the retirement of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet.
Mgr Charles Maung Bo, SDB, was born in Mohla, Archdiocese of Mandalay. On 29 October 1948. The youngest son of U John and Juliana Daw Tin Aye, he lost his father, a farmer, at the age of two.
After studying at the Nazareth Salesian seminary in Pyin Oo Lwin, he took his first vows on 24 May 1970, followed on 10 March 1976 by his final profession.
Ordained on 9 April 1976, he became Apostolic Prefect in Lashio in 1985. On 7 July 1990, when the prefecture became a diocese, he was appointed the first bishop of Lashio, consecrated on 16 December of the same year.
John Paul II later appointed as bishop of Pathein, on 13 March 1996. On 15 May 2003, he became metropolitan archbishop of Yangon. Between 2000 and 2006, he served as president of the Bishops' Conference of Myanmar.
Mgr Kriengsak Kovitvanit was born on 27 June 1949 in Ban Rak, Archdiocese of Bangkok. He studied at the St Joseph Seminary in Sampran. Sent to Rome, he studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Urban University (1970-1976).
After he was ordained priest on 11 July 1976, he was appointed parochial vicar at the Nativity of Mary Church in Ban Pan (1977-1979), serving as parochial vicar of the Epiphany Church in Koh Go. This was followed by the vice rectorship at the St Joseph Minor Seminary in Sampran (1979-1981).
After specialising in Spirituality Studies at Rome's Gregoriana University from 1982 to 1983, he served for six years as rector of the Holy Family Intermediate Seminary in Nakhon Ratchasima. Between 1989 and 1993, he was deputy secretary of the Bishops' Conference. Between 1992 and 2000, he was rector of the Lux Mundi National Major Seminary in Sampran.
Named special professor at the major seminary in Sampran in 2001, he also served as parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Hua Take (2000-2003), then, from 2003 to 2007, at the Cathedral and as secretary of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Bangkok.
Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Nakhon Sawan on 7 March 2007, with his consecration celebrated on 2 June. Since 14 May 2009, he has been archbishop of Bangkok. That same year, he began to serve as vice president of the Bishops' Conference of Thailand.
With regard to the cardinals emeriti, the pope said in his brief introduction, "They represent so many bishops who, with the same pastoral solicitude, have served as pastors of dioceses, but also in the Curia and in the diplomatic service. The cardinalatial nominations are intended then, as a recognition, symbolically given to some, but recognising the merits of all." (FP)