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Pope Francis on Saturday inducted new Roman Catholic cardinals to the group that will choose his successor, telling them that their high rank was not a privilege but a call to be humble and work for justice.
Among them was a man hailing from the Sagaing Division town of Shwebo, Charles Maung Bo, now the Archibishop of Rangoon.
Among twenty to receive the red “biretta”, or hat, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo is now one of the pope’s highest ranking aides in Rome . Those under 80, Charles Maung Bo included, can enter a secret conclave to elect the next pontiff after Francis’s death or resignation.
Fifteen of those elevated on Saturday are under 80, bringing the total number of “cardinal electors” to 125. The five older men were honoured for their long service to the Church.
Despite his new responsibilities, the Archbishop of Rangoon said he has his mind firmly fastened on issues in his homeland.
“Of course it’s over 40-50 years of military regime, now we have moved to democracy and of course there is no short cut to democracy, gradually, with the good-will of the government as well as all the people of Myanmar [Burma], we have to go for real democracy. For that one we need especially the reconciliation of different ethnic groups and the people’s reconciliation. Then peace will come, then development will be ready to come,” he said.
Nine of the new cardinals will represent developing countries in the highest cloisters of the Vatican – countries such as Burma, Ethiopia and Tonga. The elevations are in line with Pope Francis’s image as a reformist, and his papacy’s focus on the developing world.
The pope told them their high rank was not a privilege but a call to be humble and work for justice.
“Those called to the service of governance in the Church need to have a strong sense of justice, so that any form of injustice becomes unacceptable, even those which might bring gain to himself or to the Church,” said Francis, who has made attention to the poor a plank of his papacy.
The appointments, the second time Francis has named cardinals, strengthened the Church in Asia, Africa and Latin America and further shifted its power centre away from the developed world.