By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Shortly after his Angelus prayer at the Vatican on Sunday, January 12th, Pope Francis unveiled his choice of nineteen new cardinals. Rio’s archbishop, Dom Orani João Tempesta was included among the select group.
“I really knew nothing, the Pope hadn’t warned me in advance,” the surprised Tempesta told reporters. “It was a great feeling and it is a great responsibility.”
When the announcement was made of Tempesta’s inclusion among the new cardinals, the Pope reportedly received a standing ovation by those that had gathered in St. Peter’s Square, causing the Argentine pontiff to joke about the number of Brazilians in the crowd.
As cardinal, the 63-year-old Tempesta will assist the Pope in important decision-making concerning the future directions of the Catholic Church as well as participate in the Conclave, or secret meeting to choose a new pope if the need should arise again during his term.
“I already had a universal mission of caring for the whole church, as cardinal I will have even more [responsibility],” Tempesta said. “Besides the works that I will still do in Rio de Janeiro, I will advise the Holy Father.”
As a rule, cardinals can only serve until they are eighty years old and because of that three of the Pope’s selected cardinals on Sunday were chosen as “honorary” picks due to the fact they were over the imposed age limit.
Sunday marked the first time Pope Francis announced new cardinals since he took over as Pontiff in March 2013. It was also the first time in history that a cardinal from Haiti was appointed. Other priests were from the Philippines, South Korea, Argentina, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, among others.
The pontiff’s appointees represent a move beyond the traditional Western countries and a greater focus on the developing world.
“Taking into account Spain, Portugal, Latin America, the Philippines and Mozambique, we have sixty percent of Catholics in the world,” Father Jesus Hortal, former rector of the PUC-Rio said when speaking about the current “geographical expansion” of the Catholic Church. “This is a new context [for the Church].”
While the Catholic Church is not directly tied to Brazilian politics, its decisions and cultural impact can still be felt in the country and throughout the world as witnessed in last year’s six-day-long World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations in the city of Rio. An estimated three million people were in attendance during the Pope’s final mass held in Copacabana.
When asked if his involvement as host of the event had any affect on his selection as cardinal, Tempesta first pointed out that Rio typically has a representative cardinal and then added, “I have no doubt that the proximity to the Holy Father made a big difference , because he got to know Rio and the beauty of the Carioca people.”
It was previously speculated during Pope Benedict XVI’s term that Tempesta would eventually be appointed as cardinal with the resignation of that Pope and the WYD celebrations delaying the appointment.
Pope will bring the full College of Cardinals including the new cardinals and previously appointed ones- one hundred and twenty in total- together on February 22nd at the Vatican for the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.