Francis names U.S. moderate prelates to be cardinals

Prince of the Church: Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis

 VATICAN CITY -- The papal emissary to Syria has been named as one of a group of new cardinals announced on Sunday by Pope Francis, including 13 who are eligible to succeed him.

 Heading up the list of new cardinals is Italian archbishop Mario Zenari, who Francis said would remain in his post to show the church’s concern for “beloved and martyred Syria”.

 Second on the list was Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the archbishop of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, who is the youngest of the 13 new cardinals aged just 49.

 And in a rare move, 87-year-old Albanian Ernest Simoni has been elevated to the position of cardinal from parish priest. He was imprisoned by Albania’s communist regime in 1963 and sentenced to death, although that was later commuted to 25 years forced labour, according to a Vatican profile. He spent a total of 18 years imprisoned.

 Three of the 13 who will have conclave voting rights are from Europe, three from Latin America, three from the US and two each from Africa and Asia.

 Among the other senior church leaders from developing countries being promoted to cardinal are Sérgio da Rocha, archbishop of Brasilia, Patrick D’Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka, Baltazar Porras Cardozo, archbishop of Mérida in Venezuela and Maurice Piat, the bishop of Port-Louis in Mauritius.

 Three are American moderates, including Chicago archbishop Blase Cupich and Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin in a clear signal to the conservative US Catholic hierarchy that Francis values pastors focused more on mercy than morals.

 Archbishop Tobin’s nomination also carries a political message ahead of the US election, given that he openly opposed a request from Indiana governor Mike Pence, now Donald Trump’s running mate, to not settle Syrian refugees in the state.

 Under Pope Benedict's reign, Archbishop Tobin was transferred out to Indianapolis from his position in the Curia as no. 2 at the Pontifical Commission for the Religious because of pressure on the German pope by conservative American retired bishops concerned that the former head of the Redemptorist order was too sympathetic to American nuns demanding a greater role for women in the Catholic Church.