Inside the Vatican offered a general profile of the new cardinals in our February 2015 issue. Here we give a sampling of the positions of some of these new cardinals, some staunchly traditional, some very thoughtful, and some a bit… perplexing.
Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan of Panama, 70, a native of Pamplona, Spain, was sent to Panama by his order, the Augustinian Recollects. There he served for years as a school rector and president of the Federation of Catholic Schools before becoming a bishop in 1986.
He told Jim McDermott of America magazine, “We hope that the Church will be faithful to the plan of Jesus: to proclaim the Gospel to the world. Therefore in the Church, everyone and everything, people and structures, must be seen and project themselves as missionaries in the style of Jesus: close, warm, compassionate. In the Church, a Catholic who is not a missionary is a ‘contradiction in terms.’”
On October’s upcoming Synod on the Family: “The family is the cornerstone of the Church and society. It is very significant that Pope Francis has brought this to the fore as a priority and through two Synods. I hope that all Catholics take seriously the call to participate in the Synod by answering the questionnaire. We know that moral issues are not resolved through voting majorities and minorities, but it is very important to hear the voice of the people.”
Cardinal Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, 55, Salesian priest and Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay:
“I defend the family, formed by man and woman, defend that these families be generous in the transmission of life, and at the same time I feel an enormous respect for the persons who form a homosexual people,” he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
In a recent interview also with Jim McDermott of America magazine, Cardinal Berhouet said, “In my country there exist difficult social problems because of a steep decline in the educational level. There are pockets of ‘hard’ poverty that have not been able to be erased in spite of the economic growth of these last years. But the most difficult problem is the lack of a sense of life of many, especially by youth.”
What the Church has to offer, he continues, is “the joy of the Gospel,” and he quotes a friend who remarked, “He who has faith, he who is a Christian, is the happiest.”
Cardinal John Dew of New Zealand, 66, is the only native English speaker of the 20 new cardinals.
Cardinal Dew’s vision is for a Church “offering hope and support” for those who are “struggling” and that preaches the Gospel and lives “in such a way that it presents Jesus Christ as ‘fascinating,’ ‘overwhelmingly attractive,’ and that life does not make sense without him.”
At the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family he remarked: “Nine years ago… I talked about the possibility of Communion for the divorced and remarried and got a lot of criticism. Now at this Synod it’s being talked about openly by many, many people.”
Along with his fellow Pacific Cardinal-designate Soane Mafi of Tonga, Archbishop Dew has also committed to keep issues of climate change and human trafficking before the Church’s attention.
Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli, 75, a priest nearly 50 years, spent 23 of them working inside the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s main judicial court, as well as two as Secretary for the Vatican Congregation for Oriental Churches, but he has since acquired regard as a pastorally-oriented preacher and a populist. In a recent interview with Vatican Radio, he compared his work as a “shepherd of souls” to working as an actual shepherd at age 11, and the smell of the flock that shepherds acquire, saying that “being close to the people” similarly “enriches” him as he leads his diocese.
He is known as a champion of humility and simplicity, and at Christmas Mass spoke of the loss of kindness and affection in modern society, saying, “With tenderness we do not turn a blind eye to human ugliness.”
In a recent interview with Vatican Radio he repeated the theme of “tenderness,” saying, “So we, in modern times, we have to offer the Word of God — this is the truth — but along the path of the human, who needs forgiveness, mercy, tenderness, consolation.”
Commenting on issues in the upcoming Synod on the Family, he said, “Every person is a gift from God, no matter their sexual inclinations. Heterosexuals, gays, everybody has a lot to offer. We have to rediscover this in the Gospel and in our everyday mission.” He also characterized the challenge of the Synod as “do not betray the truth; exercise mercy.”
Cardinal Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Viet Nam, 76, said he saw Pope Francis’ decision to induct him into the College of Cardinals as a reflection of the warming relations between the Vatican and the communist state of Vietnam.
Vietnam has an estimated 6 million Catholics, making them the second-largest religious community after Buddhists in a nation of 93.4 million people. Because of continued dialogue and high-level exchanges of visits between the two sides, “we can see there have been efforts to hold productive dialogue,” he said in a report published by Radio Free Asia in early January, after Francis announced he was among 20 men who would become cardinals February 14.
“Such dialogue requires patience and sincerity,” he said. “I’ve seen obvious efforts from the Vatican, as well as from the government (of Vietnam). The direction looks positive, but the path is still long and we need time.”
When Cardinal Nohn was named coadjutor bishop of Da Lat in 1991, his was the first ordination of a bishop in southern Vietnam since the communist takeover in 1975. The ceremony, held at the Da Lat Coliseum, had to be authorized by the Vietnamese government and was covered by government radio and television. Pope Benedict named him bishop of Hanoi in 2010.
Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Thailand was born June 27, 1949, in Bangkok. He was ordained a priest in the Bangkok Archdiocese in 1976, installed as bishop of Nakhon Sawan Diocese in 2007, and two years later, as archbishop of Bangkok, succeeding Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu, Thailand’s first cardinal.
Thailand is a country under martial law, with instability and continuing crises a common theme. In a meeting with Buddhist and Muslim leaders, Kovithavanij suggested that when the Thai national anthem is broadcast daily at 6 p.m., Thai citizens should pause an additional minute to pray for peace and unity. The religious leaders later took that proposal to government officials.
The cardinal-designate said he believes that Asian Catholics, and Asians in general, have a cultural sensibility that promotes strong values and respects people’s dignity. “Asian people by nature are religious people,” he said. “We are open to other religions, to other people. We see the possibilities of interreligious collaboration. We respect each other’s faith.”
Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., 66, has been the Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia since 1999, as well as the head of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See.
Located in the Horn of Africa in the continent’s Northeast, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has a population of 87 million people, 63% of whom are Christian, but less than 1% Catholic.
Cardinal Souraphiel, a Vincentian, established in 2005 the Ethiopian Catholic University of St. Thomas Aquinas. “Education,” he says, “is the key” which will “create employment within the country.” Ethiopia has the largest GDP in East or Central Africa but is still one of the poorest countries in the world.
Cardinal Souraphiel is outspoken on social issues, calling homosexual activity “an infestation,” and joining other religious leaders in 2008 in calling for its constitutional ban. In 2014, the association of episcopal conferences he heads issued a statement saying “we strongly condemn same-sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural laws.”
Cardinal Souraphiel on the Synod on the Family: “My hopes are that the Holy Spirit shall guide the next Synod on the Family so that the Church remains faithful to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the teaching of our Holy Mother Church as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Canon Law in the presence of our Merciful Father.”
Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, 69, was appointed Archbishop of Agrigento in Sicily in 2008.
His local Church includes Lampedusa, the small Italian island near Tunisia which is the destination of African refugees crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats, and the site of recurring tragedy: more than 23,000 people are known to have drowned in the crossing since 1988, 330 of them in an early February accident.
“I wear the wooden cross made by the immigrants hosted in Lampedusa,” he said, indicating his pectoral cross, in a February 11 interview with CNA. “Thinking of the immigrants who made this crossing helps me reflect how today, respect for the life of the other is not given the proper priority.”
“Sicily can be an example of welcoming and dialogue,” he said. “For instance: in Lampedusa there is a small shrine, beyond the parish, and there are grottos there where Muslims and Christians met to pray a very long time ago… They did this before any discussion about ecumenism or interreligious dialogue emerged.”