Thursday, 21 October 2010

Commentary of the list of new cardinals: Part I

Well, some I got right and some I got wrong.

But first I must apologise for a wee mistake in my last post. You will see that the last paragraph begins: “Another obvious choice which would be welcomed by the synod would be…”

Obviously, I have not given the first choice. Sadly, and stupidly, I failed to transfer what should have been the previous paragraph from my draft Word documents to my “New Post” thingy. I was working on several different pieces on the same topic at the one time and cutting and pasting them to put up in my Blog. You will see from my intermittent attempts at trying to keep the Blog going that I am not very computer-technically minded. I hope you will take my word for it, but the missing bit read:

“The most obvious choice form among the 6 Eastern-rite Patriarchs for elevation to the Sacred College would be Antonios Naguib (75), Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts who was chosen by Pope Benedict to act as recording secretary of the October 2010 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.”

Anyway, to business. As anticipated, the Holy Father has decided to create ten new cardinals in curia. However, two of the cardinals-elect are a bit of a surprise, Archbishops: Robert Sarah (Guinean, 65), President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, and; Kurt Koch(Swiss, 60), President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Both have but recently been appointed, respectively on October 7 and on July 1.

They seem to have been advanced at the expense (if I may put it that way) of Archbishops Francesco Coccopalmerio (Italian, 72), President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (appointed on February 15, 2007) and Antonio Maria Veglio (Italian, 71), Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (appointed on February 28, 2009).

Clearly, taking into account that the Pope must have hesitated at the thought of creating so many cardinals “in curia” at the one time ― and these were not the only other Archbishop Presidents overlooked for a red hat ― the very fact that they are both Italians has counted against them. But bearing in mind that Msgr Sarah is placed so high in the list, at No 3, and that Msgr Koch at No 7 is placed ahead of the Prefect of a Congregation and a couple of Archbishop Presidents appointed before him, it is clear that their inclusion ahead of others is not simply a matter of seeking to avoid a nationality imbalance in favour of Italy.

Pope Benedict obviously has a very high opinion of Cardinal-elect Sarah and attaches great importance to the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Most especially does the Holy Father value the work of that dicastery in the ongoing (resumed) dialogue with the Orthodox Churches. He publicly stated at the outset of his pontificate that he did not have an agenda, a manifesto, but Benedict’s hopes for real movement towards healing with the separated brethren of the Apostolic-succession Churches of the East have been evident virtually from Day One. Day Two, in fact, for on Wednesday, April 20, 2005, the day following his election, he addressed the Sacred College of Cardinals and said:

“Fully conscious, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome, which Peter bathed with his blood, his present Successor aims, as a primary commitment, to work without sparing energies for the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ. This is his ambition, this is his imperative duty.” (Benedict XVI'S Message to Cardinals, April 20, 2005, N5)

A few days later, when Pope Benedict XVI first addressed the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square from his study window, he said: “I greet with especial affection the Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches which today celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. To these dear brothers and sisters of ours, I address the traditional announcement of joy: Christos anesti! Christ is risen!”

As with his first appointment, the first words addressed by a new Pope to the faithful on his first Sunday might be taken to have great significance. This was certainly the case here. It seemed that His Holiness had clearly placed improved relations with the Orthodox Churches at the top of his agenda. And if this were the case then his choice of a successor to himself at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would be crucial.

A clue to that particular succession surfaced another few days later, on May 3. In that day’s Vatican News release it was recorded that Pope Benedict had received in audience the Most Reverend William J Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco, USA. Up to that point His Holiness had received in audience 11 cardinals. Of the six archbishops he had received, three were senior Vatican officials, two were members of the Presidency of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), which had been received as a group, and one was a Sri Lankan archbishop on his ad limina visit. He had also received six other Bishops, members of the Sri Lankan hierarchy.

He had officially received not one member of the hierarchy of the United States of America, not even any of the American cardinals! Moreover, before welcoming Archbishop Levada that day, His Holiness had received the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and his Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini, their wives and an entourage.

So to the astute observer the question was: What gives with this Californian? Cardinals, archbishops and bishops from all over the world in Rome and the new Pope receives the archbishop of San Francisco. A guy in an archiepiscopal See which doesn’t even rate a red hat!

When Cardinal Ratzinger was brought from Munich to Rome in 1981 to serve as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as President of both the International Theological Commission and the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Rt Rev Mgr Dr William Joseph (Bill) Levada was a senior official of the CDF. One of his areas of expertise was, and still is, the Orthodox Churches.

Another indication of the importance the Holy Father gives to this field was his appointment on June 9, 2007, of Leonardo Cardinal Sandri as Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. For seven years Cardinal Sandri had served both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict as sostituto, Secretary of State Substitute for General Affairs, essentially the Papal Chief of Staff.

If there is any doubt as to the importance of this position of sostituto, or about the calibre of prelate appointed to it, then one need only cite two names: Pope Benedict XV and Pope Paul VI. The appointment of Leonardo Sandri was therefore highly significant.

(A little aside: during WW II, under Pope Pius XII, Msgr Battista ― as he was known to his family and friends ― Montini served as Secretary for General Affairs and Msgr Domenico Tardini as Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Holy See, the position now held by Archbishop Mamberti under a different title. These were incredibly important jobs, but unlike today appointment to them did not bring the archiepiscopal dignity.

One day a member of the staff of the Secretariat of State went to see Msgr Tardini. The young Monsignor it seems was much agitated and sadly told his superior that there was a scandalous situation which threatened to become public. Apparently it was being much talked about that one of the curial cardinals was having an affair with a married lady. Tardini loftily dismissed the young Monsignor telling him to “go and see Montini. He deals with Ordinary affairs.”)

Hopefully, I’ll get back to dealing with the affairs of the Sacred College later today.

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