Pope Francis has elevated 13 new cardinals to the highest rank in the Catholic hierarchy – during a ceremony marked by the coronavirus pandemic, warning that their titles were corrupt and should not be used for personal gain.
The new “princes” of the church did not enter Rome due to travel restrictions on Covid-19, and at an extraordinary 45 minutes into a socially distant ceremony, the new and old cardinals wore protective masks at the nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica.
Most of the cardinals removed their masks when Masculus approached Francis to receive the red caps, but Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington DC, remained.
Francis warned the new cardinals against falling into corruption or using their new rank for personal gain, and their new title, “Eminence,” does not mean that they should deviate from their people.
His comments reflected the arrogance of the clergy and the constant complaints of Francis and the fight against corruption in the Vatican hierarchy.
“Let us think of many kinds of corruption in the life of the clergy,” he told the new cardinals.
This ceremony, known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is the seventh in the Pontificate of Francis, reflecting the efforts of Argentines to name cardinals from places they have never been before.
Those under the age of nine are eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope, further confirming the voting-age majority appointed by Francis of the College of Cardinals.
Gregory, the new Archbishop of Washington, is the first African-American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to the ceremony, he told the Associated Press that his assignment was “a confirmation of the black Catholics in the United States, the legacy of the faith, and the faithfulness we represent.”
Gregory’s appointment comes after a year of racial protests in the United States. Francis acknowledged the protest and cited the American history of racial injustice.
“There is now an awareness of the need for racial reconciliation, an awareness I have never seen before at this level and at this level of intensity,” Gregory said.
Cardinal Felipe Arismondi Esquival, a retired Archbishop of Chiapas, Mexico, won the rights of the natives of Mexico and spearheaded efforts to translate the Bible and worship texts into local languages.
Francis, who visited Chiapas in 2016, has long won the rights of locals. “That may be the reason (he made me a cardinal) but I can’t confirm it,” Esquiel said.
Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, a Vatican theologian and preacher, also received a red cap, but he successfully defended his bishopric at the age of 86, saying he could not take responsibility. For Saturday’s ceremony, he skipped a red cassock and replaced the monk’s robe with a white “rocket” dress.
The ceremony comes against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic that erupted in Italy in February, resurrecting this fall. Vatican Museums are closing in on the Vatican’s revised lockdown and Francis’ public audience is canceling.
Cardinal candidates and others who arrived in Rome from a distance for Saturday’s service were forced to undergo a 10 – day Vatican shipwreck at the pope’s hotel, where food was brought to their rooms, video calls from outside, and cardinal’s’ new red robes were handed out by famous Roman tailors.