ROME — Pope Francis continued reshaping the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday by appointing his first group of cardinals with an emphasis on Asia, Africa and Latin America, even as he also made omissions that signal his distaste for the traditional clerical career ladder.
Nine months into his papacy, Francis has sought to shift the tone of the church, with a special focus on helping the poor. On Sunday, he named cardinals from small, poor countries like Haiti, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua and Ivory Coast.
He also named a second cardinal for the Philippines, a heavily Catholic nation.
The 120 members of the College of Cardinals elect new popes. Francis was elected last March after the resignation of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who stepped down amid scandals at the Vatican.
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But Francis’ appointments to the college are also part of his larger plans for the church, which include overhauling the Roman Curia, the bureaucracy that runs the Vatican, and opening a broad debate on the theme of family that could touch on delicate issues like homosexuality and divorce.
The cardinals are expected to meet Feb. 22 at the Vatican for a consistory, a formal meeting, to begin discussions. New cardinals will be formally appointed at that meeting.
For centuries, Europeans, and especially Italians, dominated the College of Cardinals, even as growth in the church shifted to Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Now Francis, who is from Argentina and is the first non-European pope in modern times, has continued that trend and seems likely to keep doing so.
This time, Francis named 16 new cardinals, along with three other emeritus cardinals above the age of 80 (who are not eligible to vote in future conclaves to elect a pope).
Of the 16, nine are from Asia, Africa or Latin America, six are from Europe (including four from the Roman Curia) and one is from Canada. None are from the United States.
He elevated Mario Aurelio Poli, his hand-picked successor as archbishop in Buenos Aires, as well as Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile, and Orani João Tempesta, the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.
Among the other choices outside Europe were Andrew Yeom Soo jung, archbishop of Seoul, South Korea; Chibly Langlois, bishop of Les Cayes in Haiti; Jean-Pierre Kutwa, archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast; and Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua.
Francis also used his appointments to send unequivocal signals about the curia, the Italian church and the pastoral style he favors. In the past, winning appointment to lead a powerful department in the Roman Curia often meant that the red hat of cardinal would follow.
Of the four curial officials he chose, three are allies he has named to key positions, including Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s second in command.