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Pope Francis Creates 21 Cardinals, Including Tanzania’s Protase Rugambwa

Archbishop Rugambwa is among three African clergymen Pope Francis elevated on Saturday.

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Dar es Salaam. Pope Francis on Saturday elevated 21 clergymen from across the world to the rank of cardinal, saying diversity was indispensable to the future of the Catholic Church.

At the Vatican City’s St Peter’s Square, the 86-year-old pope welcomed the new, so-called ‘Princes of the Church,’ one of whom could one day become the successor to the current pontiff.

“The College of Cardinals is called to resemble a symphony orchestra, representing the harmony and synodality of the Church,” said Francis, seated under a canopy before the gathered cardinals on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica.

“Diversity is necessary; it is indispensable,” added the Argentine Jesuit. “However, each sound must contribute to the common design.”

Among those elevated on Saturday is Protase Rugambwa, who became one of three African Cardinals who have joined the College of Cardinals.

Archbishop Rugambwa becomes the third Cardinal in Tanzania, preceded by His Eminence Cardinal Laurean Rugambwa who, on March 28, 1960, became the first African to be created Cardinal and died on December 8, 1997, and His Eminence Policalp Cardinal Pengo, who was created on January 18, 1998, and retired on August 5, 2019.

Among the 21 Cardinals elevated on Saturday, 18 are under the age of 80, meaning that they will be eligible to elect the Holy Father Pope Francis’s successor in a papal conclave after his death or resignation. 

With the latest appointments, the number of Cardinals who meet that condition stands at 137.

The 21 Cardinals hail from around the world, and three of them are from Africa, namely Archbishop Stephen Mulla of South Sudan, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa and Archbishop Rugambwa of Tanzania. 

The list also includes Archbishop Stephen Sau-Yan-Chau of Hong Kong and Archbishop Pierebatista Pizzabala of Jerusalem, places where Catholics are considered minority groups. 

Observers have commended the Church’s ability to draw Cardinals from various parts of the world, with others noting that that reflects the universality of the Catholic church. 

According to the 2023 edition of the Pontifical yearbook, 1.3 billion Christian Catholics are worldwide.

Cardinals rank second only to the Pope in the Church hierarchy and serve as his closest advisors on matters of teaching and administration of the Church. 

However, the Cardinals’ most crucial duty is gathering in a secret conclave to elect the next Pontiff, a privilege that earned them the title ‘The Princes of the Church.’

The Pope creates them from among those who meet a series of requirements. To be created a Cardinal, one must, among other things, be outstanding in doctrine, good morals, piety and prudence.

Pope Francis, 86, the first Argentine Pope who is now the oldest reigning pope in 120 years, has named nine batches of new Cardinals in his 10-year papacy.

Read more about Archbishop Rugambwa’s life from one of our contributors here.

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