The Pope’s New Cardinals


BOB ABERNETHY, host: Pope Benedict XVI named 24 new cardinals this week, increasing the number of men who will be eligible to vote for the next pope. The list includes two Americans: Archbishop Raymond Burke, the former archbishop of St Louis, now head of the Vatican’s highest court. And the other, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC. Benedict also increased the percentage of Italians in the College of Cardinals, as well as the number who come from the Vatican’s bureaucracy. The new cardinals will receive their traditional “red hats” at a ceremony in Rome on November 20. We get analysis of the new list from Father Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center and an authority on the curia, the Vatican bureaucracy. Tom, welcome.


ABERNETHY: What do you see? What’s the message in this list?

REESE: Well, I think there’s two. One is continuity, and one is change. The continuity is the fact that we see Pope Benedict appointing people who basically reflect his views on church issues and where the church ought to go. So when they get together to elect a new pope, there’s not going to be radical change. We are going to see continuity with the papacy of Benedict. What change we do see, however, is that with John Paul we saw a reduction of the role of the Italians in the College of Cardinals and also of Vatican curia cardinals. Pope Benedict is reversing that. We’re seeing more Italians, and we’re seeing like half of the people appointed as cardinals were from the Vatican curia.

ABERNETHY: And what are people around the world, in the Third World especially, Latin America, Africa, other places, what do they think of that?

REESE: Well, I mean it’s interesting. Two-thirds of Catholics live in the global south but they only get one-third of the cardinals. Two-thirds of the cardinals are in the global north where one-third of the Catholics live. The Catholic Church is not a one-man, one-vote operation.

ABERNETHY: No, no. And what about in the US.? What do you make of the appointments here?

REESE: Well, they were not a surprise. We knew that Archbishop Burke, because he’s head of the supreme court of the Church, would be made a cardinal. We also knew that Archbishop Wuerl would be made a cardinal.

ABERNETHY: But the New York archbishop was not made a cardinal.

REESE: No, and the reason was his predecessor, Cardinal Egan, is still under 80 years of age, and he will be until April of 2012. After that, Archbishop Dolan is going to become a cardinal.

ABERNETHY: For sure?

REESE: For sure.

ABERNETHY: Father Tom Reese, many thanks.

REESE: Thank you.