Then there are the less obvious possibilities. The number of Italian cardinals has consistently decreased under Pope Francis. Traditionally cardinalatial sees such as Naples, Palermo, Venice, Milan, and Turin are currently without a red hat. But the pope may opt for Archbishop Marco Tasca of Genoa, even though his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, is still among the cardinal electors.
He might also reward Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, Lithuania, the president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE).
Among the surprises, there could also be another Italian: Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri, president emeritus of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences. Sequeri is 77 years old and would therefore be a cardinal elector.
With the red hat, would Pope Francis somehow wish to bless the new direction of the institute named after the Polish pope but profoundly reshaped in recent years?
It is a hypothesis, as is a red hat for Archbishop Piero Marini, Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations from 1987 to 2007 and, until this year, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.
Both Sequeri and Marini would arguably fit into the category of cardinals who represent a connection with the past. One would underline the new theological course under Pope Francis and the other the new liturgical line expressed most recently through the motu proprio Traditionis custodes.
A red hat for Marini, who was known for his progressive liturgical ideas during the pontificate of John Paul II, would say more than a thousand words about the direction that Pope Francis wants to give to the Church.
France could also gain a red hat. Apart from Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Pope Francis has not placed a red hat on a French head since his election in 2013. With former Paris archbishop Cardinal André Vingt-Trois turning 80 on Nov. 7, and losing his right to vote in a conclave, there is a possible opening.
Spain currently has four cardinals: the archbishops of Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, and Valladolid. Archbishop Francisco Cherro Chaves of Toledo, the Primate of Spain, is not a cardinal. But insiders think that is unlikely to change.
Looking at Europe, the absence of red hats in influential archdioceses such as Kraków, Poland, and Armagh, Northern Ireland, is striking.
Neither the United States nor Canada seems a likely destination for a new red hat. The U.S. already has six resident cardinal electors: Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark. There are three others in Rome: Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, and Cardinal James Harvey.
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Canada, meanwhile, has two residential archbishops — Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of Quebec — and two curial cardinals, Cardinal Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
In Latin America, the pope is thought to be able to give the red hat to Archbishop Carlos Mattasoglio of Lima, Peru, and Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte, the president of Brazil’s bishops’ conference.
Africa is currently under-represented in the College of Cardinals (as well as among the heads of Vatican dicasteries) and three African cardinals turned 80 in 2021. Pope Francis could look to South Sudan, where he intends to visit in July. A possible candidate would be Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba.
But the pope might also gravitate toward Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Dakar, Senegal, or Archbishop Siegfried Mandla Jwara of Durban, South Africa.
Australia does not currently have a cardinal elector, and the two most prominent names would be Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney and Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne. But the possibility of a red hat for Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane should not be underestimated. Coleridge was until recently the president of the Australian bishops’ conference and was seemingly highly esteemed by Pope Francis during the 2015 family synod.
Oceania could also be rewarded with a cardinal, perhaps from Papua New Guinea, where the pope has indicated that he wants to travel.