Bringing The Church Into Balance

Yesterday, the Pope appointed 19 new Cardinals, none of them Americans. Barbie Latza Nadeau reviews the picks:

Francis chose two new cardinals from Africa, two from Asia, two from North and Central America, and three from South America. Only two Europeans were chosen outside the Curial appointments. The cardinals’ primary responsibility is to vote for the new pope in a secret conclave held in the Sistine Chapel when a sitting pope dies, or, as in the case of Pope Benedict XVI, resigns.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the appointments of Bishop Chibly Langlois of Haiti and Archbishop Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo of Burkina Faso underscored Pope Francis’s primary focus on ministering to the poor.

John Allen puts the choices in context:

With just under 70 million Catholics, the United States accounts for around six percent of the global Catholic total, meaning that it’s long been over-represented in the College of Cardinals relative to population.

With 11 cardinals under 80 and thus eligible to vote for the next pope, the United States has roughly ten percent of the world’s cardinal-electors. Both in 2005 and 2013, cardinals from the United States cast more ballots to elect the next pope than Brazil and the Philippines combined, despite the fact that those two nations together represent roughly four times the Catholic population of the United States.

Today’s announcement thus represents not only an acknowledgement of the church in the developing world, but also, arguably, a healthy reminder to Catholics in traditional Western powerhouses such as the United States of where they stand in terms of the Catholic footprint in the early 21st century.