Two Americans among newly chosen cardinals

As was rumored during the final days of Advent, Pope Benedict XVI announced Jan. 6 that he had appointed 22 new members to the College of Cardinals, including two Americans — Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, former archbishop of Baltimore and Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. 

The new members will be installed officially during a consistory in Rome on Feb. 18. It will be the fourth consistory of Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

Key trends

Of the 22 new cardinals, 16 are Europeans, 10 are officials from the Roman Curia — the central government of the Church — three are from North America, two from Asia and one from South America. Eighteen are electors, meaning they are younger than 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a papal conclave. The remaining four are officials being honored for their service to the Church. 

In all, Pope Benedict has appointed 79 cardinals, and of the 125 electors as of Feb. 18, he will have chosen 65 of them. This means that the cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict now form a majority of the potential voters in a conclave. 

Several trends seen in earlier appointments to the College by Pope Benedict will continue with next month’s consistory. There are now 43 electors who are current or former Vatican officials. They represent more than one-third of the total number of electors. The appointments also bring further strengthening of the Italian presence in the Sacred College, as seven of the 18 new voting cardinals are from Italy. In all, there are now 52 Italian cardinals, with 30 eligible to vote in a papal conclave, the highest number by far from any country. At the time of the consistory, there will be 12 American cardinals eligible to vote. The Americans constitute the second-largest national group in the Sacred College. 

The appointments make it clear that Pope Benedict is focused on advancing the new evangelization in Europe and North America, where Christianity exists in an increasingly secular and materialist culture and where the Faith needs to recapture its apostolic zeal. 

Notable new cardinals

Archbishop Dolan, archbishop of New York since 2009, is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Ordained a priest in 1976, he previously served as rector of the North American College in Rome and archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He is a best-selling author and is famed for his humor, but he has also been outspoken in his call for reforms in the wake of the sex abuse crisis and in resisting secular threats to the Church. 

Archbishop O’Brien, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre since last August, was also rector of the North American College from 1990 to 1994 and archbishop of Baltimore from 2007 to 2011. Ordained a priest in 1965, he served as a chaplain during the Vietnam War and was archbishop of the military archdiocese from 1997 to 2007. 

Archbishop Dominik Duka, archbishop of Prague since 2010, entered the Dominicans in 1969 and was ordained a priest in 1970. During the oppression of the Church by the communist regime of Czechoslovakia, Duka was prohibited from functioning as a priest, spent 15 years working in a factory and was jailed in 1981-1982. Undeterred, he secretly served as a master of novices for the Dominicans and a theology professor.  

Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, prefect of the Vatican office for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, grew up in rural Brazil, was ordained a priest in 1972 and was archbishop of Brasilia from 2004 to 2010. As a young priest, he was on his way to say Mass in a village when he was shot in the crossfire during an armored car robbery. His body still carries bullet fragments. 

Matthew Bunson is editor of The Catholic Answer and The Catholic Almanac.

New Cardinals