By Paul Obi in Abuja with agency report
Nigeria was again omitted as Pope Francis I yesterday appointed 17 new cardinals across the world, 14 of which are likely successors to the Papal throne.
Announcing the new cardinals at the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis harped on the need for the church to restore mercy, particularly in the southern hemisphere; where the Catholic Church is expanding exponentially.
The Catholic pontiff explained that the new promotion of Archbishops to the rank of cardinals would in the long run show “the universality of the Church which proclaims and bears witness to the Good News of God’s Mercy in every corner of the earth”.
The 17 new cardinals have 13 electors who are under 80 years and eligible to participate in the election of a new Pope, while four are above 80 and not eligible to vote in the selection process of a new Pope.
Out of the 17 new cardinals, only Archbishop Dieudonne’ Nzapalainga of Central Africa Republic and Archbishop Sebastian Koto Khoarai of Lesotho made the list from Africa. Nzapalainga at 49 will now be the youngest cardinal in the Catholic conclave.
Before the Pope’s announcement, there were insinuations that President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Jos Ignatius Kaigama and the Archbishop of Lagos Adewale Martins were likely candidates for the rank of cardinal.
Commanding one of the highest growing numbers of Catholics, it was hoped that the new appointment would include Nigeria, given its strength and support base to the Vatican.
The expectation was that Nigeria was ripe for another cardinal given that only the Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, is an active member of the conclave, considering that the Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Archdiocese, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has retired from service.
All efforts by THISDAY to speak to both Onaiyekan and Kaigama proved abortive as they were not available for comments.