The Oasis Reporters
June 30, 2017
The French speaking West African country has scored it’s first for Pope Francis has appointed the first cardinal for Mali . Then another four from El Salvador, Laos, Sweden and Spain.
Mali’s Jean Zerbo was appointed alongside four other cardinals in a Vatican ceremony that deeply reflected the Pope’s vision of a reshaped Church for the 21st century.
In an emphatic message, Pope Francis told them they should regard themselves as servants of the most vulnerable and not be misled by the traditional description of cardinals as the ‘Princes of the Church’.
He reminded them that the world they had to deal with was one where the innocent suffers and dies as victims of war and terrorism.
He spoke about the “forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights; the refugee camps which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory; the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included.”
Pope Francis’s latest choice of cardinals reflects his desire to reach out to the peripheries of the global Catholic community, a recurring theme of his papacy as three of the new appointments are from countries with only small minority Catholic congregations. Mali is a majority Muslim country
The appointments also increases the size of the electoral college that will select the next pope to 121 members, 49 of whom have been appointed since he became pope in March 2013.
“I think it reflects what Francis is about for him to create cardinals from Laos, Mali and Sweden,” said one of the new appointments, Sweden’s Bishop Anders Arborelius said.
“A priest showed me the announcement on the internet – at first I thought it was a joke.”
His new colleague Juan Omella, the Bishop of Barcelona, agreed.
“The pope has a very universal vision. He wants to strengthen the areas on the margins where the Church is growing,” he said.
After vowing obedience to the Church and the pope, each of the five knelt before Pope Francis to receive their cardinal’s hat, a ring and a title linking them to a church in Rome.
Christians in Mali constitute between 5 to 7% of the population of the country. Cardinal Jean Zerbo is a tireless believer in inter religious dialogue, religious tolerance and reconciliation, seeing extremism as unhelpful.