VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis named his first batch of cardinals Sunday, choosing 19 men from around the world, including the developing nations of Haiti and Burkina Faso, in line with his belief the church must pay more attention to the poor.
But advocates for victims of sex abuse by Catholic clergy said they felt let down that Francis didn’t unequivocally embrace their calls that prelates who hadn’t made a clean break with past practices of covering up pedophile behavior never be promoted.
Francis read out the 19 names to a crowd of tens of thousands in St. Peter’s Square.
Sixteen of the appointees are younger than 80, meaning they would be eligible to elect the next pope, which is a cardinal’s most important task, after the Feb. 22 ceremony to formally install them.
Since his election in March, the pope has broken tradition after tradition in terms of protocol and style at the Vatican. But in Sunday’s list, Francis stuck to the church’s rule of having no more than 120 cardinals eligible to elect the next pontiff.
The College of Cardinals is 13 shy of that 120-mark among eligible-to-vote members. In addition, three cardinals will turn 80 by May. That means Francis chose the exact number of new cardinals needed to bring the voting ranks up to 120 during the next few months.
Some appointments were expected, including that of his new secretary of state, Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, and the German head of the Vatican’s watchdog office for doctrinal orthodoxy, Gerhard Ludwig Mueller. Two others named Sunday also come from the curia, as the Holy See’s Rome-based bureaucracy is known.
Francis’ announcement of the honor of the Les Cayes Bishop Chibly Langlois, who, at 55, was the youngest of the appointees, came as the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti marked the anniversary of the quake there that killed tens of thousands of people.