For Americans who take note of the pomp and circumstance — and politics — at the Vatican, the big news on Friday (Jan. 6) was that Pope Benedict XVI had included New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and former Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, among the 22 churchmen that he will install as cardinals at a Mass at St. Peter’s next month.
The elevation of Dolan, 61, is not unexpected. His predecessor, retired Cardinal Edward Egan, will lose his vote in a papal conclave when he turns 80 in April. Popes have traditionally wanted to ensure New York is represented in the College of Cardinals for any future papal election.
But the larger story of Friday’s appointments — and an indication of how the next conclave may play out — is that the German pope continued his pattern of stacking the College of Cardinals with Europeans (mainly Italians) and with leaders of the Roman curia, the papal bureaucracy whose officials are often considered more conservative than prelates in dioceses around the world.
This trend goes against the push by Benedict’s predecessors, notably the late John Paul II, to “internationalize” the College of Cardinals and make it more representative of the global church. And it runs counter to the inexorable demographics of the church, which shows the number of Catholics growing in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America, even as the faith barely treads water in North America and declines in Europe.
“This suggests an upside-down church,” Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for The Tablet, a Catholic weekly in London, said of the pope’s appointments. “It doesn’t reflect where the church is going.”
The numbers tell the story. Since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005, his three batches of new cardinals have favored Europeans and those who work with him in Rome over bishops from other countries. [More]