Archbishop Ángel Sixto Rossi is one of three Argentine cardinals the first Latin American pope chose to join the Sacred College on September 30. The Archbishop of Cordobà, who turns 65 on August 11, 2023, is a close friend of Pope Francis. This is due not only to of his Argentine nationality, but also to his membership in the Society of Jesus.
He has distinguished himself for his commitment to serving the poorest in a country marked by great social disparity. His name is also associated with numerous works on spirituality, notably on St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Background and priestly ministry
Born in 1958 in Cordobà, Ángel Rossi entered the novitiate of the Argentinean Jesuit province in 1967, when it was headed by Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio. This was against the painful backdrop of the military dictatorship. After studying in Ecuador, he defended a thesis on spiritual discernment in Saint Ignatius at Rome’s Gregorian University.
He was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus in 1986. His activity as a Jesuit has been marked by his social commitment: Between 1990 and 1992, while parish priest of El Salvador, Buenos Aires, he created the Hogar San José (St. Joseph’s House), which helps the homeless. In 1992, he also founded the Manos Abiertas (Open Hands) Foundation, which provides assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable people in 10 Argentine cities.
Like his former provincial Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he has also become a popular retreat preacher, preaching the Spiritual Exercises to groups of priests, religious, and lay people. He has also published several books on spirituality, including Teresa, in 1999, which helped bring the “little way” of St. Thérèse of Lisieux to the attention of Spanish-speaking readers.
In it, he details St. Thérèse’s advice for overcoming temptation: “Show evil your face” and “kill it with indifference”; “go to Jesus and tell him what is happening”; and lastly, “offer up what you are experiencing with pain and make reparation for others.”
Called to the episcopate in a country marked by violence
In 2021, he was serving as advisor to the Argentine-Uruguayan province of the Society of Jesus, coordinator of the itinerant missionary team, and spiritual assistant to the Manos Abiertas Foundation. Then, the Pope called him to the episcopate to take over the reins of the Archdiocese of Cordobà, Argentina. It has a population of some 2.3 million, served by around 300 priests.
As archbishop, he has continued his commitment to the poor. Among other things, he spoke out in favor of a priest running a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, who was shot at without any police response to the attack. Following this incident, Archbishop Rossi met with the political authorities to “reflect on a more real and aggressive strategy, in the good sense of the word,” in order to prevent his city from becoming the site of a gang war. With these words he was referencing Rosario, a city that symbolizes Argentina’s deteriorating security situation.
The announcement of his cardinalate came as a surprise to him, but he said he was ready to continue “loving and serving,” in keeping with his episcopal motto, according to Vatican News. In the chaotic context of Argentina’s election campaign, he explains that every citizen must seek to contribute, from his or her own position, to building a better country.
With seven cardinals in all, Argentina’s presence is strengthened
Following his promotion, Argentina will now have four cardinal electors, but Cardinal Rossi will be the only one to head a diocese in Pope Francis’ native country. Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, a close advisor to Pope Francis and the new Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also created cardinal on September 30.
The other two Argentinean cardinal electors no longer hold office, but will remain electors until their 80th birthdays: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect Emeritus of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches, who turns 80 on November 18, and Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, Archbishop Emeritus of Buenos Aires, who will remain an elector until 2027.
The current archbishop of the Argentine capital, Jorge Ignacio Garcia Cuerva, who recently took office, was not included among the new cardinals.
The Pope has also made Fr. Luis Pascual Dri a cardinal, but not an elector. Fr. Luis is a simple priest and confessor of Argentine nationality who served for many years in Uruguay. The presence of this 96-year-old Capuchin religious, who knew Padre Pio personally, came as a great surprise when the consistory was announced on July 9.
Two other Argentinians are among the non-electing cardinals. Cardinal Esteban Karlic, 97, Archbishop Emeritus of Paraná, was admitted to the Sacred College in 2007 by Benedict XVI. The German pontiff had worked with him on drafting of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Finally, Cardinal Luis Héctor Villalba, 88, Archbishop Emeritus of Tucumán, was created a cardinal by Francis in 2015.