Pope Francis urged 19 freshman cardinals to shun rivalries and factions at an induction ceremony on Saturday where his scandal-plagued predecessor, pope Benedict, made a surprise appearance.
It was the first time Benedict attended a papal rite since his resignation a year ago. His presence offered the remarkable scene of a former pope, a reigning pope and a potentially future pope in St. Peter’s Basilica at the same time.
Rivalry between factions of the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, was blamed for the mishaps and scandals that dogged Benedict’s eight-year papacy, capped by the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal in 2012 in which Benedict’s butler stole personal documents and leaked them to the media.
Cardinals are the pope’s closest advisers in the Vatican and around the world. Apart from being Church leaders in their home countries, those who are not based in the Vatican are members of key committees in Rome that decide policies that can affect the lives of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Sixteen of the new appointees are “cardinal electors” who will join 106 existing cardinals who are also under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope from among their own ranks.
They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti. The non-electors come from Italy, Spain and Saint Lucia.
Benedict, 86, who was using a cane, came in through a side entrance and sat quietly wearing a long white overcoat in the front row with cardinals. When he reached the front of the basilica to start the ceremony, Pope Francis greeted Benedict, who took off his white skull cap in a sign of respect and obedience.
Even though the crowd had been asked to refrain from applause during the ceremony, they clapped when Benedict walked in and again when his name was mentioned in an address by one of the new cardinals.
Benedict became the first pope to resign in 600 years when he stepped down on February 28, 2013. Francis was elected the first non-European pope in 1,300 years two weeks later.
Francis gave the red-and-white-garbed cardinals their square hat, known as a biretta, and their ring of office in the presence of hundreds of other cardinals and bishops during the solemn ceremony inside Christendom’s largest church.
He urged them to be men of spirituality and service.
“Whenever a worldly mentality predominates, the result is rivalry, jealousy, factions,” he said.
Francis urged cardinals to remain united. “The Church … needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, communion with me and among yourselves,” he said.
His choice emphasized his concern for poor countries.
The new cardinal electors are aged 55 to 74. From Latin America are Archbishop Aurelio Poli, 66, Francis’s successor in the Argentine capital, and the archbishops of Managua in Nicaragua, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Santiago in Chile.
Two are from Africa – the archbishops of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Abidjan in Ivory Coast. From Asia are the archbishops of Seoul in South Korea and Cotabato in the Philippines.
Archbishop Chibly Langlois, 55, is the first cardinal from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where according to the World Bank some 80 percent of the rural population lives in abject poverty. The Philippines, Nicaragua, Ivory Coast and Brazil also have high rates of poverty.
Only four of the cardinal electors are Vatican officials, chief among them Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 59, Francis’s new secretary of state, and Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, 66, the German head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation.