On Sunday, Oct. 9, Pope Francis announced that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis, Most Rev. Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., would be named a Cardinal in the Church. Many people not familiar with the Catholic Church may be asking what being a Cardinal is all about. This announcement provides a good opportunity for a review.
In the Catholic Church, there are three ordained ministries: deacon, priest and bishop. Each one of these orders carries with it certain obligations in ministering to the faithful throughout the Church. The entire Church is overseen by the Pope. It’s important to know that the Pope is not another level of ordination. The Pope is seen as the head bishop of the Church, chosen by his peers to be the successor of Peter. Even with the added responsibility of overseeing the Church, by ordination he remains a bishop. Indeed, his official title is Bishop of Rome.
Over the years, the Pope would designate other bishops to be special advisors to him. As time went on, these advisors became known as Cardinals. These bishops were personally chosen by the Pope. At first, the Cardinals were bishops who were in close proximity to the Pope so he could call on them for their advice. But in more recent times, Popes have named Cardinals from throughout the world to reflect the diversity of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has been even more mindful of this as he has named Cardinals from places that never had a Cardinal before.
So what will all this mean for Archbishop Tobin? First of all, for now, he will remain Archbishop of Indianapolis. Being named a Cardinal is not another level of ordination, so his functions and duties as a bishop remain the same. But Cardinals still play the role as special advisors to the Pope. From time to time, the Pope will want to consult the Church on various matters, and he will call a meeting of all the Cardinals of the Church. So, for one, this probably means more trips to Rome for Archbishop Tobin.
Then, one of the most important tasks for the Cardinals comes when it is time to choose a new Pope. After a Pope dies (or in the case of Pope Benedict XVI, resigns), the Cardinals of the world gather at Vatican City, and those who are under 80 years old meet, pray and dialogue with each other, and then vote on who the next Pope will be. Even though there is no rule about it, generally speaking the new Pope will come from the ranks of the Cardinals themselves.
This is not only a great honor for Archbishop Tobin, but it also reflects the kind of Church Pope Francis would like to see. In his time here in Indiana, Archbishop Tobin has been a very pastoral kind of leader. He is seen as one who has the well-being of the people at the heart of his ministry. His commitment to social justice is well known as seen in his efforts to provide a safe place for refugees from Syria and his support of diversity within the Church, including his support of Black, Latino and Asian Catholics. And he has been devoted to ecumenical relationships, regularly meeting with the leaders of other faiths in our area.
Archbishop Tobin will be traveling to Rome for a special ceremony on Nov. 19, which will officially bestow this new title upon him.
Fr. Kenneth Taylor is pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Church and St. Rita Catholic Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.