Pope Francis Expands Non-European Representation in College of Cardinals

On November 28, Pope Francis appointed 13 new members to the College of Cardinals, including an African American archbishop and prelates from Rwanda, Brunei, Chile and the Philippines. Since his Papal inauguration in 2013, he has appointed 18 cardinals from countries that never had one, nearly all of them from the developing world.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets cardinals in St. Peter’s Square, April 21, 2019. (Photo by Ricardo de Luca, Shutterstock.com)

The College of Cardinals helps the Pope in the leadership of the Catholic Church and those under the age of 80 are eligible to vote in the election of a new pope when the occasion arises. The College now has 106 cardinals from Europe, compared with 123 from the rest of the world, according to the latest tally of the Vatican Press OfficeOnly 24 percent of all Catholics live in Europe.

Among the latest of the Pope’s appointments was Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., the highest-ranking African American Catholic in American history and the first African American to join the College of Cardinals.

“It’s been a time to thank God for this unique moment in my life and in the life of the Church in the United States,” the 72-year-old Gregory told CNN after his historic appointment at the Vatican. “I hope it’s a sign to the African American community that the Catholic Church has a great reverence, respect and esteem for the people, for my people of color.”

To date, 38 percent of the cardinals Pope Francis has appointed are European, with the others coming from Asia, Africa, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Oceania (including Australia).  

When Pope Francis, an Argentinian, became Pope in March 2013, he was the first pope from the Americas and the first non-European pope since the 8th century. 


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Pope Francis cardinals