Pope Names 19 New Cardinals, Many From Developing World

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Pope Francis continues to shake things up this week in the Catholic Church. Renee Montagne talks with John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter about what the new appointments say about the direction the Pope is leading the church.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Pope Francis continues to shake things up in the Catholic Church. On Sunday, the pope announced 19 new cardinals, many of them from the developing world, and concerned, like Francis, with poverty. Joining us now to discuss what many have termed the Francis Revolution is John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter. Good morning.

JOHN ALLEN: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with the new cardinals, including the first cardinal from Haiti. It's a group very much in the mold of the pope. What does this mean for the Church?

ALLEN: Well, the first takeaway, obviously, is Francis, of course, is the first pope in the history of the Catholic Church to come from the developing world and there clearly is an embrace of the developing world in these appointments. I mean, in addition to the relatively small number of four Vatican officials and two residential cardinals from Europe, the others come from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America. Strikingly, two cardinals from the Caribbean, a region often overlooked in Catholic life.

But if you drill down, I think the really interesting thing about these appointments is how many of them come from what we might call the periphery. I mean, in Haiti, for example, as you say, we have the first-ever cardinal from Haiti. Strikingly, not from one of the country's two dioceses but from one of the smaller and more impoverished dioceses.

The same thing is true in the Philippines. Even in Italy the pope bypassed the traditional cardinal sees of Venice and Turin to lift up the archbishop of Perugia. So clearly in these appointments Francis is trying to underscore what he has said over and over again, which is he wants the Church to reach out to the peripheries of the world, both the geographical and the existential peripheries.

I would say that the consistory on February 22nd, which is the event in which a pope creates new cardinals, that profiles as the consistory of the periphery. And I think that's one of the signature touches of the Francis Revolution.

MONTAGNE: Well, one thing. In his state of the world address yesterday Pope Francis made a very strong reference to the horror of abortion. Now, this seems like a shift from some of his earlier comments about focusing on poverty rather than social issues like abortion. Is this any kind of evidence that Francis might not be quite, you know, as what you might call revolutionary as he seems?

ALLEN: No, I don't think so. I mean, Pope Francis has, time and time again, when asked for his personal views on abortion insisted that his views are those of the Church. So there never was any indication of a rollback. I think there was, perhaps, a shift in emphasis, a determination by Francis to lift up what's often called the social gospel, that is the Church's concerns for the poor, for war, for the environment, to give those issues similar emphasis to its teaching on abortion and gay marriage.

And then strikingly, yesterday, that reference to abortion which came in the context of his annual speech to diplomats, the 180 countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, that line on abortion, Francis coupled it to a concern with child soldiers and also with human trafficking. I think that's another element to the Francis Revolution - seeing the Church's pro-life teachings as part of the continuum that also include these other social concerns.

MONTAGNE: Now, John, we only have about 30 seconds here but just very briefly, the Vatican has launched its own criminal investigation of an archbishop accused of sex abuses. Is that very unusual?

ALLEN: It is. In the past, the Vatican has subjected churchmen accused of abuse to internal ecclesiastical processes that could lead to them being deprived of their priesthood. What's unusual in this case is that there's also a criminal process that could, in theory, end up with this archbishop behind bars much like the papal butler who was accused of stealing papers off the pope's desk.

MONTAGNE: Mm-hmm. Right.

ALLEN: The difference in this case is the pope would be unlikely to issue a pardon.

MONTAGNE: Well, John, thanks very much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.

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