Sunday, October 09, 2016

A Scarlet Bolt – Pope Announces 17 New Cardinals

(SVILUPPO: Updated Noon ET with first analysis.)

Suffice it to say, it's become Pope Francis' unique habit that, in announcing new cardinals, no one is told in advance – above all the designates... let alone anyone else.

Accordingly, at the end of today's Angelus, 17 names were suddenly dropped for a Consistory to be held on Saturday, 19 November, to coincide with the close of the Jubilee Year – 13 of them electors, and four others to be elevated over the retirement age of 80.

Among other notables in the group: three voting Americans (making up for back-to-back shutouts in Francis' first two intakes), and a fresh dose of the pontiff's cherished "peripheries," including the first-ever red hats from Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Malaysia, the island-chain of Mauritius, and Papua New Guinea.

Here, the designates, in the order by which they will be created:

–Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria
–Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, CSSp. of Bangui (Central African Republic)
–Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid
–Archbishop Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia
–Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago
–Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, CSC of Dhaka (Bangladesh)
–Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Mérida (Venezuela)
–Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels (Belgium)
–Archbishop Maurice Piat of Port-Louis (Mauritius)
–Bishop Kevin Joseph Farrell, emeritus of Dallas, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life
–Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla (Mexico)
–Archbishop John Ribat, M.S.C. of Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea)
–Archbishop Joseph William Tobin, CSSR of Indianapolis

And the "honorary" hats for retirees:

–Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez, emeritus of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
–Bishop Renato Corti, emeritus of Novara (Italia)
–Bishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai, OMI, emeritus of Mohale’s Hoek (Lesotho)
–Fr Ernest Simoni, priest of Shkodrë-Pult (Albania)

* * *
Given what many will take as the day's big surprise – the elevation of Joe Tobin, 64, the Detroit-born Redemptorist who's led the 250,000-member Indy church since 2012 – well, for starters, the nickname he's long had among his confreres bears recalling: "Big Red."

To be sure, that's more a reference to both the former hockey enforcer's onetime ginger hair and the worldwide religious family he would lead for 12 years... still, given the latest curveball in a ministry full of them, the moniker fits its newest turn no less.

After two terms as superior-general of the Redemptorists, in 2010 Benedict XVI named Tobin as archbishop-secretary of the "Congregation for Religious," armed with a mandate to bring a smooth landing to the Holy See's visitation of the US' apostolic communities of sisters, which had become mired in untold levels of controversy and misunderstandings in domestic church-circles and media alike. That he entered the job by publicly cross-checking the excesses of the Roman Curia – in words that, while controversial at the time, would prove to be prophetic – is something that shouldn't be forgotten today. (Below, the now cardinal-designate is seen leading a family singalong at the reception following his ordination.)

With the task essentially finished in two years – thanks in large part to the now cardinal-designate's fierce commitment to dialogue with the orders, and an equally formidable integration of their concerns into the process – Tobin's appointment to Indianapolis didn't just fulfill his wish to get home to the Midwest (above all to his indomitable mother, Marie-Terese, who raised 13 children alone as a young widow), the move likewise brought someone who had been a veteran pastor among the first Hispanic waves in Detroit and Chicago to a diocese which was just beginning to experience a sizable Latino influx, making the newcomers a priority in the venerable, largely-rural church for the first time.

Barely six months after Tobin's arrival by the Brickyard, his southern fluency would come into the ultimate reason behind this historic red hat: with the election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, while most US bishops were furiously brushing up on the new pontiff, the Indy prelate suddenly found himself as one of the closest Stateside friends of the new Bishop of Rome – indeed, one of precious few North Americans who had any firsthand experience with him, let alone at length.

That serendipity owed itself to the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, which Tobin, as head of the Redemptorists, attended as the delegate of the Union of Superiors General (the umbrella-group of the global leaders of mens' orders).

As the Synod's circuli minores – the small discussion-groups – were split up by language, bishops had already taken all the English-speaking slots by seniority, so Tobin found a seat in a Spanish group... and spent the next month sitting alongside the cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Accordingly, eight years later, within an hour of the Argentine's election to Peter's Chair – as most US hierarchs furiously sought to cram up on the Conclave's choice – the Indianapolis media was treated to the most fully steeped of briefings while sitting around their archbishop's desk.

Sure enough, nobody in the States came anywhere close to "nailing" the man and the story so precisely in the moment – and, again, today's news merely evinces the result.

Within a year, Francis already showed that he hadn't forgotten his old friend, naming Tobin a member of the Curial Congregation he had helped oversee (a rare nod for a far-flung bishop), as well as quietly sending him on a few delicate missions.

Over those same months in 2014, meanwhile, as someone the Pope knew – and who, in many ways, bore his scent – the Redemptorist's name was duly floated at high levels for Chicago, only to be deemed too much a "wild card" by some key players, given his lack of experience in the national rungs of leadership.

Amid that backdrop, this most "personal" seat in the College a Pope has given an American since 1958 (when John XXIII elevated Bishop Aloysius Muench of Fargo, who Papa Roncalli knew and admired as the postwar Nuncio to Germany) – and one given alongside the eventual Windy City pick – shows anew, and for the first time in the US, that even as Francis can be freewheeling in consulting  on major diocesan appointments, when it comes to the "Senate" that will elect his successor (and from which the next Pope will come), his choices are his own.


While no shortage of early focus on Tobin's elevation has honed in on Tobin's public clash with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence – now the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee – over the archdiocese's decision last year to take in Syrian refugees, a far quieter, less politically charged angle carries even more weight. (On a context note, however, Pence's move to ban the migrants from the Hoosier State was rejected as discriminatory by a Federal appeals court last week.)

Each November during the USCCB meeting in Baltimore, the local Catholic Worker House goes to the trouble to invite all of the 300-odd prelates for dinner and conversation one night during Plenary Week. And for years, all of one consistently turned up: Bishop John Michael Botean, the Ohio-based eparch of North America's 8,000 Romanian Catholics, who famously declared on the eve of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq that "any direct participation and support of this war... is objectively grave evil [and] a matter of mortal sin."

Normally as low-profile as he was outspoken on the war, as Botean slipped out to keep his usual commitment at the 2012 meeting, he was stunned to find company looking to head to the Peace Dinner: Tobin, who was just joining the Stateside bench upon his appointment to Indianapolis, and – having long and openly witnessed to four decades in recovery – was bound to find little taste for the oft-boozy scene of dinners and receptions that fill the hotel after the daily Floor sessions.

Long story short, the Catholic Worker night is a commitment he's kept ever since. And even as Francis' push toward the "peripheries" has raised the event's annual crowd to around a dozen bishops, as never before, now there'll be a cardinal in the room for it....

And in this world, that says everything.

* * *
Said to have learned the news only on hearing pre-dawn shouting that woke him up at the Indy church's seminary at St Meinrad – far from the see city... and reliable cell service – Cardinal-designate Tobin issued his initial reaction on his recently-launched Twitter feed: