By conferring a red hat on 47-year-old Bishop Giorgio Marengo, the apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, 85-year-old Pope Francis has found his youngest cardinal.
Bishop Marengo came to serve Mongolia in 2002, hardly two years after his ordination as a priest. Church records show it is a tiny mission with fewer than 1,300 Catholics in a population of 3.5 million, served by two Mongol priests, 22 foreign missionaries and 35 nuns.
The newest and the first cardinal-elect from the East Asian nation will be eligible to vote in papal conclaves for 33 years. There is a widespread perception among Vatican watchers that this will be Pope Francis’ last addition to the College of Cardinals and, therefore, he wants to put things in a correct perspective.
The pope has started paying attention to the small communities of faithful scattered throughout the world, Italy-born Bishop Marengo said soon after the pope made the announcement of his elevation in St. Peter’s Square.