Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will name 14 new cardinals on June 29, including the redoubtable head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Iraqi Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako.
After his Regina Caeli message at noon on Sunday, the pope told the tens of thousands of faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that he would be creating 14 new cardinals from all over the world to underscore the “universality of the Church.”
The new cardinals, whose job it is to counsel the pontiff as well as elect a future pope, hail from Iraq, Portugal, Pakistan, India, Italy, Poland, Spain, Peru, Japan, and Madagascar.
Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako has led the besieged Catholic Church in Iraq throughout its ordeal at the hands of the Islamic State and has been a powerful voice on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
This past February 24, the patriarch had the Church of St. Paul in Mosul illuminated with red lights to call attention to the persecution of Christians, which also meant “bringing back hope to Iraqi Christians who have suffered so much,” he said.
Along with the Iraqi bishop, the pope will be bestowing the “red hat” on several members of the Vatican Curia, including Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Polish, Almoner of the Office of Papal Charities, along with Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, the Vicar General of Rome.
Another new cardinal will be Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, another location hit especially hard by anti-Christian Islamic terrorism.
As Breitbart News reported last March, Christians in Pakistan have been undergoing systematic persecution by the Islamic majority, justified in part by the country’s iniquitous blasphemy laws.
Witnesses and human rights representatives told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at that time that blasphemy laws are being used as a weapon by Islamic radicals against the Christian minority in the country.
“The Islamic Republic is a name given to several states that are officially ruled by Islamic law,” said Shazia Khokhar, a Christian woman activist from Pakistan now living in Switzerland. “In Pakistan, once an individual is accused of blasphemy, he is presumed guilty and the law fails to safeguard against people willing to use violence.”
The blasphemy law “creates an atmosphere of religious intolerance and has contributed to the institutionalisation of discrimination against religious minorities,” she added.
In the last five years, Francis has significantly reshaped the college of cardinals and as of June 29 he will have named the largest group of the cardinals who will eventually vote for a new pope.
After the ceremony, Francis’s fifth consistory, he will have named 59 of 125 cardinal electors. Forty-seven of the remaining electors were named by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and 19 by Saint John Paul II.
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