VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis named 17 new cardinals Sunday -- 13 of them under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect his successor. Three of the new cardinals are Americans, including leading U.S. moderate Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich and Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin.
As is Francis' tradition, the new cardinals hail from some of the most far-away and peripheral corners of the globe, with Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania getting far more representation than Europe, which has long dominated the College of Cardinals.
New to the club of the "princes" of the church are bishops from Bangui, Central African Republic; Port Louis, Mauritius and Tlalnepantla, Mexico.
Significantly only one Italian elector was named: Francis' ambassador to "the beloved and martyred Syria," Cardinal-elect Mario Zenari.
Francis said the 17 would be elevated at a consistory on Nov. 19, on the eve of the close to his Holy Year of Mercy.
Of the new cardinals, Cupich is very much a pastor in Francis' likeness, emphasizing the merciful and welcoming side of the church -- somewhat to the dismay of U.S. conservative Catholics. His nomination as Chicago archbishop was Francis' first major U.S. appointment and he was a papal appointee at the pope's big family synod last year.
The nomination for Tobin could indicate Francis' appreciation of Tobin's support for American nuns. Tobin had been the No. 2 in the Vatican office for religious orders for only two years when in 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI sent him back to the U.S. to head the Indianapolis archdiocese, which had fewer than 230,000 parishioners.
The transfer was seen in some Vatican circles as being tied to Tobin's efforts to promote dialogue and resolve tensions between the Vatican and U.S. nuns who were subject of two separate Holy See investigations. After Francis was elected, both investigations were concluded with Vatican praise for the work of the sisters.
The third American, Cardinal-elect Kevin Farrell, the outgoing bishop of Dallas, was an expected nomination. Francis in August named him to head the big new Vatican secretariat for laity, family and life issues.