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Rome Reports

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Who might decide the future direction of the Church?

Pope Francis recently announced he will create 21 cardinals in a consistory on August 27th. 

16 of the new cardinals are under 80 years of age, meaning they’re eligible to vote in a future conclave that will decide who becomes the next successor of St Peter.

There are currently 132 members of the so-called College of Cardinals which, more than ever, reflects the universality and diversity of the Church. As the number of Catholics grows in Africa and Asia especially, so does the number of cardinals coming from those areas of the world.

That’s a big change after 500 years of European dominance in Church leadership.

But why now? What’s driving this move away from Europe and toward other parts of the world?

Well, mostly because the Church itself is changing. There was a time when Europe was considered the Catholic continent. Today most Catholics are concentrated in the Americas, Asia and Africa.

The graph helps us compare the number of Cardinals from these continents who voted in the conclave of 2013 that elected Pope Francis, to the equivalent numbers today.  

Some researchers claim the faith spreads more quickly and more strongly in countries where the Church suffers persecution.

Others say it was the election of the first Pope from outside Europe in centuries that prompted this shift. 

A less Eurocentric Church does guarantee a greater sense of universality, which in turn provides new perspectives, and highlights more global sensitivities.

In the 9 years of his pontificate, Pope Francis has certainly left his mark in terms of establishing who might decide the future direction of the Church.

After the consistory of August 27th, only 11 electors will be those created cardinal by Pope John Paul II, and 38 by Pope Benedict XVI – while Pope Francis will have created 83 of them. 

The new cardinals, and others, will be meeting in Rome before the consistory this August. The gathering will allow them the opportunity to discuss important issues regarding the Church in their respective parts of the world.

But most of all, and quite simply, it will give them a chance to get to know one another – many of them for the very first time. 


Kielce Gussie

Rome Reports