- Bishop Joseph Coutts gets the post for promoting dialogue between Muslims and Christians
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Thursday appointed 14 new cardinals from all over the world, including Pakistani Bishop Joseph Coutts who got the top post for promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
In the event of a conclave to name a new pope, 11 of the new 14 cardinals being under 80 years of age would be eligible to take part.
The appointments came as the Argentine pontiff gradually shapes a less European college of cardinals whose members are often committed to peace or social justice.
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Coutts said he was surprised at his nomination. He said the clergy in Pakistan is very close to the people.
“For us, in a poor country like Pakistan and in a small, young Church, historically, where we all, as bishops or archbishops, spend a lot of time with the people. And thank God we don’t have that lifestyle which takes us above the people. We try to be with the people most of the time.”
Cardinal Coutts said he was unsure whether his new jobs would reduce the time he has available to spend with the people.
“So to be a cardinal, I don’t yet know what the implications are. But I fear there will be a gap. I won’t be able to give so much time to the people,” he said.
Among the new “princes” was Iraq’s Louis Sako who often met Pope Francis to discuss the situation in the war-torn country and the plight of the dwindling Christian community.
Desire Tsarahazana from Toamasina in Madagascar was the only African among the new cardinals. The Pope also appointed Thomas Aquinas Manyo from Osaka in Japan.
Among the three Latin American prelates is Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru. Barreto has fought for the rights of the communities living in the Amazon forest and received death threats for denouncing working conditions in illegal mines.
Seven European cardinals were also appointed, including Italy’s Giuseppe Petrocchi, archbishop of L’Aquila, a city destroyed nine years ago by a violent earthquake.
As well as having the key role of choosing a new pope, cardinals often also hold the highest administrative offices in the church.
Pope Francis, the first head of the church from Latin America, is 81 and was named in 2013 after his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI stood down citing advancing age.