In 2007, Pope Benedict announced the list of new cardinals at the end of the Wednesday audience on October 17,approximately five-and-a-half weeks before the consistory. While I had expected the announcement of the third consistory of this pontificate on Sunday, it may well be that it will come on Wednesday. If it does not, then it seems likely that His Holiness will not hold a consistory before Easter when he will have 25 vacancies in the roll of cardinal electors to fill. I could only presume that financial considerations would drive such a decision.
Apart from the necessity of creating new cardinals to bring the strength of the college of cardinal electors back up to its maximum of 120, there is also the no small matter of it perhaps being thought prudent to put in place both a younger Dean and a younger vice-Dean currently and respectively Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Cardinal Bishop of Albano and Ostia, who will be 83 on November 23, just about the time the next consistory is expected, and Roger Marie Élie Etchegaray (88), Cardinal Bishop of Porto-Santa Rufina.
At present, the other members of the order of Cardinals Bishop are, excluding the Eastern rite patriarchs who do not vote for, and are not eligible to be elected, the Dean or vice-Dean: Giovanni Battista Re (77 on January 30), Sabina-Poggio Mirteto, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops; Francis Arinze (78 on November 1), Velletri-Segni, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments ; Tarcisio Bertone (76 on December 2), Frascati, Cardinal Secretary of State and Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, and; José Saraiva Martins (79 on January 6), Palestrina, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Bearing in mind all the other onerous duties the Holy Father has entrusted to the care of Cardin Bertone, it would seem most likely that he would favour the appointment of one of the other three to the Deanship and since he is known to respect Cardinal Arinze’s desire to pursue a quieter life at home in Nigeria then most likely Cardinal Re will get the papal nod for the Suburbicarian See of Ostia. But it must be emphasised that the rules state that it is free to the Cardinals Bishop to elect whomsoever it pleases them to from amongst their own number, although the Holy Father has to consent to the appointment of the elected.
There then follows the problem of who to appoint to Albano and to Porto-Santa Rufina. William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would seem an obvious choice for one. The other might well go to His Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in recognition of his years of service to the Holy See and especially for the time spent as sostituto during the last years of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II and the early ones of this present one. Moreover, such an announcement during the Special Synod for the Middle East would go down well with the delegates present in Rome.
And IF the announcement IS made on Wednesday, October 20, while the Synod for the Middle East is in session, then it might very well be that the Holy Father, to show his solidarity with the region, will name cardinal one or two prelates connected with the Church very much suffering there.
Of the three cardinal patriarchs of Eastern-rite, none is now a cardinal elector and it would be a much appreciated gesture were Pope Benedict to announce the elevation of one of the other patriarchs while they are all in Rome
Another obvious choice which would be welcomed by the synod fathers would be that of His Beatitude Fouad Twal (70 on October 23), Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins (Coadjutor Archbishop of Jerusalem, September 8, 2005; succeeded as Patriarch, June 21, 2008) His Beatitude is a Member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.