Pope Francis announced he will create 21 new cardinals Aug. 27, including 68-year-old Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, California.

The pope made the announcement at the end of his “Regina Coeli” address May 29, telling the crowd in St. Peter’s Square the names of the 16 cardinals under the age of 80, who will be eligible to vote in a conclave, and the names of five elderly churchmen whose red hats are a sign of esteem and honor.

“Let us pray for the new cardinals so that, in confirming their adhesion to Christ, they may help me in my ministry as bishop of Rome for the good of the entire holy people of God,” the pope said.

After the Aug. 27 consistory, there will be 132 cardinals eligible to enter a conclave, and the number of those over 80 will be 97, bringing the total number of cardinals to 229.

You can read the complete list here. 

Among other things, Bishop McElroy has been an advocate for women deacons: 

McElroy, who was first made an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco in 2010 and then named bishop of San Diego by Pope Francis in 2015, will be the first cardinal for the Diocese of San Diego.

He has been among the most vocal champions of Pope Francis’ pastoral agenda among the U.S. hierarchy, frequently echoing the pope’s prioritization of environmental concerns, migration and a more welcoming approach to LGBTQ persons.

In 2019, McElroy was one of two Americans to be named by Francis to participate in the Vatican’s Synod on the Amazon region, which opened up discussions on celibacy requirements for the priesthood and the possibility of restoring the ministry of women to the diaconate.

“I’m in favor of it,” McElroy told NCR at the time on the question of women deacons. “My view on it is [that] women should be invited into every ministry or activity we have that’s not doctrinally precluded,” he said.

McElroy’s selection by Francis also comes at a time when the U.S. church has been roiled by debates over whether pro-choice Catholic politicians should be denied Communion, most recently led by Archbishop Salvatore Cordielone of San Francisco, California who earlier this month announced he would bar U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from receiving the sacrament. McElroy, by contrast, has warned against the “weaponization” of the Eucharist for political ends.

His elevation to cardinal means that Francis has once again chosen to pass over the more conservative leaning Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who leads an archdiocese that has normally been led by a cardinal. Gomez is also currently the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Cupich, one of Francis’ closest U.S. allies, told NCR that he is “both happy and yet not really surprised,” by the pope’s decision to name McElroy to the College of Cardinals.”He is one of the most gifted bishops in the United States, and I think that his nomination today is a sign of the esteem that he has in the life of the church, which is held by the Holy Father,” Cupich said.

Read on.