VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI named 23 new cardinals Wednesday, giving Texas its first “prince” of the Roman Catholic Church in a clear recognition of the growing Latino presence in the U.S. church.
The appointment of Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo brings the number of American cardinals to 17 – second only to Italy – and increases the American contingent’s clout in any conclave to elect a future pontiff.
Benedict tapped Vatican officials, academics, diplomats and archbishops from five continents. Eighteen of the new cardinals are younger than 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave; five others, including the patriarch of Baghdad, were named in recognition of their service to the church.
Benedict said he would give them their red hats at a Vatican ceremony Nov. 24.
The naming of DiNardo, 58, of Galveston-Houston, was something of a surprise because there are several other U.S. archdioceses that usually have cardinals leading them, including Washington and Baltimore, but the pope did not elevate their archbishops.
However, the Rev. Robert Wister, professor of church history at Seton Hall University, said just because a diocese has had a cardinal doesn’t mean it will always have a cardinal. He said he wasn’t at all surprised by DiNardo’s appointment.
“This is a very clear recognition of the growth and importance of the Latino population in the Catholic Church in the United States, and in particular it’s a recognition of the Mexican-American presence in the church, of which there is a very large number in the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston,” he said by telephone.
DiNardo accepted congratulatory phone calls from priests in his parish and Catholic leaders across Texas.
“It says something about Texas and how wonderful Texas is in the terms of the growth of our Catholic faith,” he told a news conference in Houston.