On appointing 17 new cardinals at the Vatican, Pope Francis has warned of a 'virus of polarization and hostility' in the Catholic Church and broader society. His comments come amid growing trends of populist nationalism.
During a ceremony at St Peter's Basilica on Saturday, Pope Francis named five new European cardinals, four from North America, two from South America, three Africans, two Asians and an Oceanian.
Cardinals, who are known as "princes of the Church," occupy the most senior positions in the Roman Catholic hierarchy after the pope. They also serve as his main advisers around the world, as well as in the Vatican.
Francis used his homily during the consistory ceremony to warn against the rise of populist nationalism and cautioned somberly against those who "raise walls, build barriers and label people."
Caution after US election
Although the Pope avoided naming any specific country, Pope Francis appeared to refer to the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attitudes that surfaced both during the US election campaign and since Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections last week.
The pontiff said love was needed for "the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn."
"We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of the stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy," the pope said.
"An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the colour of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith," Pope Francis remarked.
The Church itself was not immune to "a virus of polarisation and animosity," Pope Francis added in an apparent reference to a public challenge by four conservative cardinals, who accused him of sowing confusion on important moral issues.
Mission in the world
In selecting cardinals, popes look for men who share their approach to the church's mission in the world. Included in the new intake are Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the 49-year-old archbishop of the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, and the Vatican ambassador in Syria, Mario Zenari. Pope Francis said Zenari would remain in his post, however, in order to show the Church's concern for "beloved and martyred Syria."
The Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Lesotho will have a cardinal for the first time.
In a rare move, 87-year-old Albanian Ernest Simoni will be promoted from parish priest to cardinal. Simoni brought Francis to tears on recounting his 18 years of imprisonment under Albania's communist regime.
ksb/jm (dpa, AP, Reuters)