Arch bishop Léonard not (yet) appointed cardinal

Pope Francis named 19 new cardinals on Sunday. His choice does not include the Belgian Arch Bishop André-Joseph Léonard. However, this doesn't mean that the 73-year-old Léonard can't become a cardinal at a later stage.

Pope Francis chose 16 "cardinal electors" under 80 who are eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope. They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti.

Half of them are non-Europeans, which highlights the importance Francis attaches to the developing world. Cardinals are the pope's closest advisers in the Vatican and around the globe. Apart from being church leaders in their home countries, those who are not based in the Vatican are members of key committees in Rome that decide policies that can affect the lives of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

The fact that the Belgian primate Léonard was not chosen as a new cardinal, does not come as a surprise to Vatican experts, explains the VRT's correspondent in Rome, Hedwig Zeedijk. "Most of them had their lists ready, and most of these did not include Léonard. The pope had already said that not every big diocese should necessarily have a cardinal, which was an indication that Léonard would not be picked."