KARACHI: Pope Francis on Sunday said he will elevate Pakistani Archbishop Joseph Coutts from Karachi and 13 others to the rank of cardinal.
Francis will appoint them as cardinals in a ceremony known as the consistory in Rome. “I am happy to announce that on June 29 there will be a consistory meeting to appoint 14 new cardinals. Their origins reflect the universality of the church,” Francis said.
Coutts will be the second archbishop from Pakistan to become a cardinal after the late Joseph Cordeiro.
“I am very surprised at my elevation as cardinal,” said Coutts, who was appointed archbishop of Karachi in 2012, replacing Evarist Pinto.
Coutts is actively involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, and is president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference.
He was ordained a priest in Lahore in January 1971, after receiving his training at Christ the King seminary in Karachi.
A doctor of philosophy, he speaks several languages, including English, Italian, German, French, Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi.
Francis said he will elevate 14 churchmen from five continents to the rank of cardinal, picking candidates who work with the poor or where Catholics are a minority, Reuters reported.
Making the surprise announcement during his weekly Sunday address, he said the new cardinals come from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, Madagascar, Peru, Mexico and Bolivia. They will be given their traditional red hats at the consistory.
Eleven of them are under 80, the age limit for entering the secret conclave that will be called to elect a new pope once Francis dies or retires.
The new appointments will bring the number of elector cardinals to 125, five more than the limit established by Pope Paul VI for a conclave. Francis will have named almost half of the group since becoming pontiff in 2013.
It will be his fifth consistory, and he has used each occasion to show support for the Church where Catholics are a tiny minority, in this case Iraq, Pakistan and Japan.
Christians in Iraq and Pakistan have faced death and discrimination in recent years, something Francis has repeatedly railed against.
By elevating prelates from those two nations, he is sending a strong message of support to local churches.