Pope Francis prepares for the future by appointing 21 new cardinals

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Pope Francis announced on Sunday his intention to appoint 21 new cardinals, a way to mark the future of the Catholic Church.

The 85-year-old Pope made the surprise statement after Sunday’s consecration in front of thousands of people who came to greet him in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Among the newcomers, 16 are cardinal voters under the age of 80 who are likely to attend the meeting, which aims to determine his successor after his death or resignation. Eleven of these are resident or native to countries outside of Europe or North America.

Cardinals, sometimes nicknamed “princes of the Church”, are the pope’s closest advisers.

Notable appointees include Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego in California.

He considered himself progressive, close to the pope on issues such as environmental protection and a benevolent attitude towards gay Catholics. He also opposed conservative American clergy who advocated banning Catholic politicians who used abortion rights in favor of communion.

After the ceremony, called the assembly, on August 27, which will formally nominate these new cardinals, Francis will have identified about two-thirds of the cardinal electorate, increasing his successor’s chances of reflecting on his positions on key issues.

It will be the eighth election since the 2013 election of Argentine-born Pope Francis.

Francis appears to be trying to increase the Church’s influence in Asia, a growing region of the world, by appointing cardinals in Singapore, Mongolia, India, and East Timor.

Among the candidates is Archbishop Giorgio Marengo, currently an Italian director of the Catholic Church in Mongolia.

There are less than 1,500 Catholics in the country, but it is quite strategic as it is adjacent to communist China, where the Vatican is trying to improve the situation for Catholics. At 48, the youngest of the new cardinal electors.

Others come from France (Archbishop of Marseille Jean-Marc Aveline), Nigeria, Brazil, India, the United States, East Timor, Italy, Ghana, Singapore and Paraguay.

(Report Philip Pullella; French version Elizabeth Pineau)

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