VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Here are short biographical sketches of the 17 churchmen Pope Francis announced he would induct into the College of Cardinals Nov. 19. The cardinals-designate are listed in the order in which Pope Francis announced their names Oct. 9.
— Italian Cardinal-designate Mario Zenari, 70, has been nuncio to Syria since 2008, remaining in the country since the war started in March 2011. Although giving a nuncio a red hat usually is a sign that the archbishop is about to be transferred to head an archdiocese or department in the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said he will remain nuncio in the “beloved and martyred” nation. Ordained for the Diocese of Verona, Italy in 1970, he has served in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1980. Insisting his nomination to the College of Cardinals is primarily a sign of affection for the people of Syria, he noted the cardinals’ red robes are “red like the innocent blood shed” in Syria.
— Cardinal-designate Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, is a member of the Spiritan order and, at 49, will be the youngest member of the College of Cardinals. Born in Mbomou, he prepared for the priesthood in Central Africa Republic, Cameroon and Gabon. He has been archbishop of Bangui since 2012 and is president of the nation’s bishops’ conference. Along with a local imam and a Protestant leader, he co-founded the Interfaith Peace Platform to promote an end to civil strife and ensure the conflict would not explode into a sectarian war.
— The press has described Cardinal-designate Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid as “the Spanish Francis,” for his openness to dialogue and his focus on personal encounters with the poor. The 71-year-old was a teacher who then entered a seminary for “late vocations” and was ordained in 1973 at the age of 28. Before becoming bishop of Orense in 1997, much of his pastoral work involved teaching, youth ministry and vocations promotion. Pope Francis appointed him archbishop of Madrid in 2014. Speaking to the press after the pope announced his intention to make the archbishop a cardinal, he said, “To bring the joy of the Gospel, we must go out, be with men and women, as he (Pope Francis) is doing.” The pope, he said, projects an image of the church that is far from the pageantry of the past, but is close to people and open to discussing their questions. “That is the way to evangelize,” he added.
— Brazilian Cardinal-designate Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia will celebrate his 57th birthday Oct. 21. A moral theologian by training, the archbishop was one of three appointees Pope Francis chose to join the council charged with following up on the 2014 and 2105 synods of bishops on the family and with planning the next synod, which will focus on youths and vocational discernment. St. John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Fortaleza in 2001. Transferred to the Archdiocese of Teresina, he served as archbishop there for three years before Pope Benedict XVI named him archbishop of Brasilia in 2011.
— Cardinal-designate Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, 67, joins an unbroken line of Chicago archbishops named cardinal since the 1924 elevation of Archbishop George W. Mundelein. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, he studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and earned a doctorate in sacramental theology from the Catholic University of America. Ordained to the priesthood in 1975, he worked at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., from 1981-87. St. John Paul II named him bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1998 and Pope Benedict XVI named him bishop of Spokane, Washington, 12 years later. Pope Francis named him archbishop of Chicago in 2014.
— Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, is a 73-year-old member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross and will become the first ever cardinal from Bangladesh. AsiaNews, a missionary news agency reported, “Cardinal-designate D’Rozario learned of his appointment while he was celebrating Mass in Tejgaon parish. He was so overcome that at first he was left utterly speechless. His emotion was manifested by tears of joy welling up in his eyes.” Ordained to the priesthood in 1972, he served as bishop of Rajshahi and of Chittagong before Pope Benedict XVI named him coadjutor archbishop of Dhaka in 2010. He became archbishop 11 months later and has served as president of the Bangladesh bishops’ conference for five years.
— Venezuelan Cardinal-designate Baltazar Porras Cardozo, 72, told local news network Globovision his appointment was “a call to hope and to overcome the crisis today” in his country. Born in Caracas, he served as a pastor and was involved with the Cursillo movement before he was named auxiliary bishop of Merida. After his appointment as archbishop of the same diocese by St. John Paul II in 1991, Archbishop Porras served two consecutive terms as president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference and later was a vice-president of CELAM, the Latin America bishops’ council.
— Belgian Cardinal-designate Jozef De Kesel said he was “surprised” when hearing news of his appointment by Pope Francis Oct. 9. A theologian, Archbishop De Kesel has authored numerous articles and books on the church and Christian life. He served as auxiliary bishop of Malines-Brussels before his appointment as bishop of Bruges by Pope Benedict XVI. He returned to Malines-Brussels after he was appointed archbishop by Pope Francis. He serves as president of the Belgian bishops’ conference.
— Like Pope Francis, Cardinal-designate Maurice Piat of Port-Louis, Mauritius, hails from a place at “the end of the world.” The 75-year-old, however, is no stranger to the outside world, having entered the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in Ireland and having completed his theological studies in Rome. He also studied in Paris before returning to Mauritius and serving as a parish priest for several years. Appointed coadjutor of the Diocese of Port-Louis by St. John Paul II in 1991, Bishop Piat also served as head of the Indian Ocean Bishops’ Conference and is a member of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
— Irish-born U.S. Cardinal-designate Kevin J. Farrell, 69, prefect of the newly created Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, had just begun to get settled in Rome when Pope Francis announced he would be a cardinal. “I am humbled by the news this morning,” he said, asking for prayers “that I may to the best of my ability fulfill this sacred duty to our church.” Born in Dublin, he was ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1978 as a member of the Legionaries of Christ, and later was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. After serving in several parishes, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese in 2002 and five years later was named to head the Diocese of Dallas. He is known as an outspoken leader on issues such as gun control, abortion, the death penalty, immigration and religious liberty.
— Mexican Cardinal-designate Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, 66, studied for the priesthood in his native Tepic and at Montezuma Seminary in Nevada, a seminary set up jointly by the bishops of Mexico and the United States. He earned a doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Ordained a priest in 1973, he served as a parish priest, rector of the seminary in Tepic and professor of Sacred Scripture before his appointment as bishop of Texcoco in 1997 by St. John Paul II. After being named archbishop of Tlalnepantla by Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Aguiar Retes served as head of the Mexican bishop’s conference for six years and, from 2011 to 2015, as president of CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ council.
— Cardinal-designate John Ribat of Port Moresby, 57, is Papua New Guinea’s first cardinal and the current president of the Federation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania. Ordained a priest of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in 1985, he served in several parishes in the Diocese of Bereina before continuing his studies in Manila, Philippines. He served as auxiliary bishop of Bereina before his appointment as bishop of the diocese by St. John Paul II. He was named archbishop of Port Moresby in 2008 and also served as head of the Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands from 2011 to 2014. Archbishop Ribat was among several bishops who signed an appeal in 2015 urging government leaders to reach an agreement on climate change.
–Like several of his fellow appointees, Cardinal-designate Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, 64, said he was “shocked beyond words” after Pope Francis announced he would be a cardinal. A member of the Redemptorist order and a Detroit native, he served as an inner-city parish priest in his hometown and in Chicago. He also served in Rome as superior general of the Redemptorist order. Prior to his appointment as Indianapolis archbishop in 2012, he was secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which works with more than 1 million men and women in religious orders around the world. Archbishop Tobin made headlines in December 2015 when he defended the decision of his archdiocese to resettle a Syrian refugee family through the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities agency — a decision that went against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s ban on resettling Syrian refugees in the state.
— Malaysian Cardinal-designate Anthony Soter Fernandez, retired archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, 84, will be his country’s first cardinal. Of Indian descent, he was born in Penang, Malaysia, a diocese he served as bishop for 15 years. He worked for many years in priestly formation as a spiritual director and led the archdiocese for 10 years. He was president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei from 1987 to 2003.
— Italian Cardinal-designate Renato Corti, retired archbishop of Novara, 80, is a well-respected spiritual director. Often called to lead spiritual exercises for priests and laypeople, St. John Paul II chose him to preach the Lenten retreat for him and the Roman Curia in 2005 and Pope Francis picked him to write the Good Friday Way of the Cross meditations in 2015. He was ordained to the priesthood by the future Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1959 and he served as vice president of the Italian bishops’ conference for nearly 10 years.
— Lesotho’s Cardinal-designate Sebastian Koto Khoarai, retired bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, 87, will be the first cardinal from this southern African nation. A member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he was the first bishop of the Diocese of Mohale’s Hoek after it was created in 1977. He served as president of Lesotho’s Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1982 to 1987.
— Albanian Cardinal-designate Ernest Simoni, a priest whose 88th birthday is Oct. 18, endured decades of imprisonment, torture and forced labor during his country’s brutal communist crackdown against the church. No matter what threats he faced, he refused to denounce the church and he secretly ministered to his fellow prisoners, celebrating Mass from memory and hearing confession.
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The Catholic Church here in the US is truly blessed to have three stellar new Cardinals. They all have a reputation for being really pastoral and truly committed to the least of these. Congratulations! Wonderful news.