Worries over cardinals coming from tiny nations like Tonga

Concerns have been raised over the appointments by Pope Francis of cardinals from very small nations like Tonga.

In an article in the National Catholic Register, Rome correspondent Edward Pentin wrote that Francis’s choice of cardinals is among the indicators of his pontificate’s direction.

Pentin noted that Francis has chosen not to award “so many red hats to traditional cardinalatial sees, especially in Italy”.

Examples Pentin cited include Venice and Turin.

Rather, the Pope has gone to the global peripheries for new cardinals, reflecting the universality of the Church.

Pentin described the elevation to cardinal of Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga as “unprecedented”.

The writer noted Tonga’s population was little more than 100,000 and that Protestants outnumber Catholics significantly.

Another such appointment from a small state was that of Cardinal Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Cape Verde, Pentin noted.

“Despite [such appointments of cardinals] being a widely welcomed innovation that focuses on parts of the world where the Church is growing fastest, not all are happy with the move,” Pentin added.

“One senior Church official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Register that emphasis on the peripheries may sound worthy, but it omits the fact that being a member of the College of Cardinals involves ‘some very weighty responsibilities, in terms of advising the Pope, electing a Roman pontiff’.

“For this reason, he believes, ‘a certain respect for the very large sees is logical’.

“In any case, the Church official said, the bishop of a large diocese is already ‘involved in a big way in the peripheries of his own diocese’.

“Others believe new cardinals from the peripheries will also be taken less seriously,” Pentin wrote, “and have comparably less influence than those from the traditionally-cardinalatial metropolitan sees.”

In April last year, Pope Francis named Cardinal Mafi to be a member of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving

In 2011, there were 15,441 Catholics in Tonga, making up 15 per cent of the population.

Catholics were the third largest denomination in Tonga, behind Methodists (54 per cent) and Mormons (18 per cent).


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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