VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis installed 14 Catholic churchmen as cardinals on Thursday, putting another stamp on the group that will one day elect his successor.
Presiding at a ceremony known as a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis told the new cardinals that their mission was to serve the poor and the Church and not seek privileges.
Francis has now chosen 59 of the 125 cardinal electors under 80 years old who would be eligible to enter a conclave after his death or resignation. Eleven of the new cardinals are under 80.
With each future consistory, Francis will add to the number of cardinal electors he has chosen, increasing the possibility that his successor will continue his policy of a more open, inclusive and forgiving Church.
“What does it profit us to gain the whole world if we are living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission?” Francis said at the service where he gave each man a three-cornered “red biretta” hat and a ring of office.
He urged them to shun “palace intrigues” he said sometimes take place in the Vatican and in Church administrations around the world and avoid “useless wrangling about who is most important”.
The new cardinals, whose selection the pope first announced on May 20, come from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, Madagascar, Peru, Mexico and Bolivia.
In the past five years, Francis, an Argentine, has tried to make the Church less Euro-centric, choosing more men from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, increasing the possibility that his successor will also be a non-European.
Stressing his message of service, he told the cardinals “the only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ”.
They had to serve “real people,” listing them as “those who are hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside.”
He said: “None of us should look down at others from above. The only time we can look at a person in this way is when we are helping them to stand up.”
Francis has used each consistory to show support for the Church where Catholics are in a tiny minority, in this case Iraq, Pakistan and Japan.
Christians in Iraq and Pakistan have faced death and discrimination in recent years, something Francis has repeatedly railed against. By elevating prelates from both nations, he is sending a message of support to local churches.
Underscoring his focus on the poor, Francis promoted Poland’s Konrad Krajewski, who is the head of the Vatican alms office, which has overseen numerous efforts to help the homeless in Rome, including setting up showers near St. Peter’s Basilica.
Francis told Reuters in an interview at his residence on June 17 that in choosing cardinals he looked for men who could make Catholics, even in small or distant countries, feel that they counted in the Church and their voices were heard in Rome.
Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by Larry King