Pope installs 17 cardinals, including Malaysia's Anthony Soter Fernandez (VIDEO)

Pope Francis gives the traditional biretta hat to new cardinal Anthony Soter Fernandez of Malaysia during a consistory ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 19, 2016. — Reuters pic
Pope Francis gives the traditional biretta hat to new cardinal Anthony Soter Fernandez of Malaysia during a consistory ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 19, 2016. — Reuters pic

VATICAN CITY, Nov 20 — Pope Francis yesterday warned against an “epidemic of animosity” in parts of the world where immigrants and people of other religions were automatically and unjustly seen as threats and enemies.

The comments, made in the homily of a service where he installed 17 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, comes little more than a week after Donald Trump's victory in the United States fueled the ambitions of anti-immigrant, populist parties in Europe and elsewhere. Among the new cardinals is Malaysia's Anthony Soter Fernandez.

Thirteen of the new cardinals, who received their traditional biretta (three cornered red hat) at a ceremony in St Peter's Basilica known as a consistory, are under 80 years old and thus eligible to succeed him one day.

Naming new cardinals is one of the most significant powers of the papacy, allowing a pontiff to put his stamp on the future of the 1.2-billion-member global Church. The new cardinals come from 15 countries and many are progressives like the pope.

Three come from the United States and in his homily, Francis, while not naming any country, appeared to refer to the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim attitudes that surfaced during the US presidential campaign and since the election.

Decrying growing polarisation and exclusion, he said: “We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy.”

“An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the colour of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith,” he added.

The US Justice Department said on Friday it was investigating whether recent reports of intimidation and harassment, including in schools and at churches, violated federal hate crime and other civil rights laws, following a divisive presidential election campaign.

“How many wounds grow deeper due to this epidemic of animosity and violence, which leaves its mark on the flesh of many of the defenceless, because their voice is weak and silenced by this pathology of indifference,” the pope said in his homily.

He said the Church itself was not immune to “a virus of polarisation and animosity.”

This was an apparent reference to a rare public challenge to the pope by four conservative Roman Catholic cardinals, who accused him of sowing confusion on important moral issues.

The new cardinal-electors under 80 come from Italy, the Central African Republic, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Belgium, Mauritius, Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

Those over 80 and not eligible to take part in the election of a pope come from Italy, Malaysia, Lesotho and Albania.

With the current batch, Francis has named 44 cardinal-electors, slightly more than a third of the total of 120 allowed by Church law.

It was Francis' third consistory since his election in 2013 as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, and he has used each occasion to show support for the Church in far flung places or where Catholics are thought to be suffering. — Reuters

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