With the creation of six new cardinals from Asia on August 27, the number of cardinals born or carrying out their ministry in Asia rises to 21 among the 132 cardinal electors who could be called to take part in a conclave for the election of a pope.
In Asia, 18 countries now have one or more cardinals and 15 have cardinal electors in a conclave. Asia has altogether 31 cardinals, ten of them above the age of being an elector.
Singapore, Timor-Leste and Mongolia have cardinal elections and India now has the highest number of cardinals in the region.
Some of the new Church leaders are relatively young and from relatively smaller countries and towns.
The Apostolic Vicar of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Giorgio Marengo entered the College of Cardinals at the age of 48, while Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili (Timor Leste) is just 54.
Here are the new cardinals in Asia as listed by Radio Veritas Asia:
Cardinal Virgílio do Carmo da Silva, 54, is archbishop of Díli, Timor-Leste, an island nation in Southeast Asia and Asia’s second-most Catholic country after the Philippines.
Born in Venilale, Timor-Leste, in 1967, Cardinal Da Silva completed his education in Manila, Philippines. He was ordained priest in 1998 after taking a licentiate in spirituality from the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. While he was serving as the provincial superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco in East Timor, he was appointed bishop of Dili in 2016.
Cardinal Da Silva said his appointment is a gift from God to the Timorese people and to the Church. He said that even as the number of Catholics and vocations in the country remain high, the faithful confront numerous challenges, including severe unemployment, “brain drain,” and proselytism by other groups.
The Salesian cardinal pledged to revisit the role and mission of the Church in the country, which acted as a strong political voice during the country’s struggle for freedom from Indonesia’s 24-year occupation. He said the focus must now be on education, re-evangelization, proximity to the people, and discerning and meeting their needs.
Cardinal William Goh Seng Chye, 64, is Singapore’s first cardinal. He will be the sole ethnic Chinese prelate among the cardinal electors.
Born to Chinese parents in Singapore in 1957, he was ordained priest in 1985 after studies in Singapore and at the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome. He later studied dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He became the Archbishop of Singapore in 2013. From 2015 to 2021, he was Episcopal President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei (MSB) for the Apostleship of the Sea.
Serving 360,000 Catholics in Singapore, he set up the first ten years of the archdiocese’s pastoral vision that focused on four key thrusts: to rekindle faith, renew people, revitalize outreach, and refresh structures.
He said his elevation to the College of Cardinals reflects “the small but very active” role the Church plays in a country where Catholics are a minority but are very much involved with the local and immigrant communities. He considers himself “just an ordinary man” and said he is “deeply humbled by this new appointment of the Holy Father” and “is conscious that this honor and new responsibility.”
South Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik became prefect of the then-Congregation for Clergy in 2021, making him the second prelate from Asia to head a Vatican office. Before that, he had served as president of the Justice and Peace Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.
Born in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do Province, South Korea in 1957, he was ordained a priest on December 8, 1979, after studies in South Korea and Rome. He was named coadjutor bishop of Daejeon in 2003 and later bishop. As bishop of Daejeon, he welcomed Pope Francis to the city for the sixth Asian Youth Day in 2014 and took part in the Synod of Bishops on young people in 2018.
He was president of Caritas Korea and coordinated with the North Korean government in a major aid program with assistance from Caritas International. Caritas Korea helped approximately five million poor North Koreans. He traveled to communist North Korea four times and has said he hopes for lasting peace and reconciliation on the peninsula.
Indian Cardinal Anthony Poola of Hyderabad is the first Dalit cardinal and the first cardinal of the Telugu people from the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “Dalit” – untouchables – refers to the most disadvantaged group of people under India’s former caste system, often still treated with disrespect. His appointment was “good news for Dalit Catholics and for the entire church in India.
Born on November 15, 1961, in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad was ordained a priest on February 20, 1992, and was appointed bishop of Kurnool on February 8, 2008. He assumed office on April 19, 2008. He is the chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Bishops’ Conference’s youth commission. He was named the Archbishop of Hyderabad on November 19, 2020.
He said that pope’s efforts to reach out to those on the peripheries are reflected in the fact that he was made a cardinal. He thinks being a cardinal lets him be compassionate and merciful shepherd for the poor and Dalits. In his ministry, the archbishop will prioritize social service as he describes his mission as “helping as many poor children as possible, and reflects on serving India’s poorest and often-forgotten “untouchables.”
Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrão, 69, is archbishop of Goa, the first cardinal of the 265-year-old archdiocese. Goa is a former Portuguese colony and now an Indian state.
He is president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) — the national episcopal conference of the bishops of the Latin rite of the Catholic Church in India — and is a member of the central committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
Born on January 20, 1953, in Aldona, he studied at the seminary in Poona and was ordained a diocesan priest in 1979. He has degrees in biblical theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University and in catechesis and pastoral theology at the Lumen Vitae International Institute in Belgium.
He became auxiliary bishop of Goa in 1993, and was named archbishop of Goa in 2003 with the traditional title “Patriarch of the East Indies” by St. John Paul II.
His pastoral and social concern is evident in his pastoral letter on charity and the social responsibilities of his archdiocese. He wrote, “While India is struck by extreme poverty, 73% of our country’s resources are controlled by 10% of the population. The existing extreme poverty is, therefore, the result of the rampant social injustice prevailing in the country.”
Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, IMC, 48, is the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Born in 1974, he is the youngest of the new cardinals and will be the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.
Mongolia has only just over 1,300 Catholics and the pope’s choice reflects his attention and care to the small communities of faithful scattered throughout the world.
Although he had met Pope Francis in May 28 with a delegation of Mongolian Buddhist leaders, the pope’s announcement on May 29 was a complete surprise. “We talked of many things, but he said nothing at all about this,” he said of his appointment.