KOREA - Pope Francis is expected to name as many as 12 new cardinals in the coming days, and a Korean cleric may make the list, Vatican observers say.
The Wall Street Journal and some other foreign media outlets reported last week that in the appointments, Francis, the first pontiff born outside Europe in more than 1,000 years, may seek to reshape the Roman Catholic hierarchy to better reflect regions where the church is flourishing.
The Philippines, as it boasts one of the largest Roman Catholic communities in the world, is likely to see one of its archbishops promoted to cardinal, the Wall Street Journal said.
"Elsewhere in Asia, clerics from Indonesia and South Korea, which has a small but growing Catholic community, could also be named," it said, citing pundits.
Korea, with a 5.4-million-strong Catholic community, has two cardinals: Cardinals Andrew Yeom Soo-jung and Cardinal Nicolas Cheong Jin-suk.
Yeom, Seoul archbishop since 2012, was made Cardinal in February. He is currently Korea's only representative in the case of a conclave, a convention of cardinals younger than 80 that gathers to elect a new pope.
Korea's first cardinal, Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, died in 2009, and its second Cardinal Nicolas Cheong is over 80, the canonical retirement age.
Names mentioned as potential candidates for the new cardinal include Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju archdiocese; Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Jeju diocese and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea; Bishop Mathias Ri Long-hoon of Suwon diocese.
Pope Francis, in his first apostolic voyage to Asia since taking office in March 2013, visited Korea from April 14-18. He received a superstar reception, drawing a huge crowd consisting of believers, spectators and journalists everywhere he went.