Friday, 1 November 2013

Consistory, February 22, 2014, Feast of the Chair of Peter

Today, there are 109 Cardinal Electors. By February 22, 2014, Feast of the Chair of Peter, and on the occasion of Pope Francis’s first consistory for the creation of new cardinals, there will be, barring the intervention of the Grim Reaper, 106. Joachim Cardinal Meisner, still Archbishop of Cologne, will be 80 on Christmas Day. Raúl Eduardo Cardinal Vela Chiriboga, Archbishop Emeritus of Quito, will follow suit on New Year’s Day. Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops, loses his rights as a Cardinal Elector on January 30. It will be remembered that Cardinal Re as Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto and senior Cardinal Bishop present at the recent conclave, acted as Pro-Dean and so had the responsibility of asking His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio SJ if he accepted his canonically valid election.

Thus under the rules currently in force, Pope Francis will have 14 red birettas to confer on new Cardinal Electors.

Unless Pope Francis decides otherwise, there are 21 positions within the Roman Curia and related institutions which are reserved to cardinals or to archbishops who will be created cardinal at the first opportunity (although Pope Benedict himself ignored this at his mini-consistory of last November when he did not create cardinal Archbishops Müller and Bruguès). These are:

The Secretary of the Secretariat of State;

The Prefects of the nine Congregations;

The heads of two of the three Tribunals, the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura;

The Presidents of the: Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See; Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; the Governatorate of Vatican City State, who is also President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State;

The Librarian of the Vatican Library and Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives (now a combined post);

The Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and;

The Archpriests of the Four Patriarchal Basilicas: St John Lateran (which Archpriest is also the Pope’s Cardinal Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome); St Mary Major; St Paul’s Outside the Walls, and; St Peter’s.

Before speculating on who will be on the list we must also remember that Pope Benedict adopted the attitude that in general a prelate appointed to a position which traditionally merited the award of a Red Hat would have to wait until the person he succeeded ceased by reason of age or demise to enjoy the rights of a Cardinal Elector. But it must also be borne in mind that this was his policy, it is nowhere enshrined in canon law. Benedict himself applied it inconsistently in the metropolitan archdioceses and he did not apply it where the major departments of the Roman Curia were concerned (see the appointments of Archbishops: Fernando Filoni, Oriental Churches, 2007; Angelo Amato, Causes of Saints, 2008;  Joã Bráz de Aviz, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 2011; Fernando Filoni, Evangelization of Peoples, 2011). Only time, and it may be a short time, will tell how Pope Francis intends to proceed.

Since the first consistory of the new millennium, that of February 21, 2001, it has been the practice that when a list of cardinals-designate is issued, at the top of the list are named those prelates destined for service in the Roman Curia. To be named Number 1 on the list is a signal honour. To that prelate falls the privilege of addressing the Holy Father in behalf of all the new cardinals at the public consistory, nowadays invariably in St Peter's. On this occasion, Number 1 on the list will be Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Pro-Secretary of State (although they seem not to have officially adopted this correct designation in the Vatican) since October 15. This is a rare occurrence. I am aware of it having happened only twice before (if we ignore Domenico Tardini whose nomination was announced on the eve of Good Pope John's first consistory in 1958; also Cardinal Tardini was not named as Number 1, that honour went to Cardinal Montini, a personal friend of Good Pope John as well as being a former sostituto, which outranks a former equivalent to the present day Secretary for Relations with States).

In July of 1903, as Pope Leo XIII lay dying, Mgr Volpini, Secretary of the Sacred College of Cardinals and who should therefore have acted as Secretary at the upcoming conclave, suddenly died. The Anglo-Spanish Archbishop Rafael Merry del Val, President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, was elected by the cardinals to act as Secretary to the Conclave. Such was the favourable impression that Pope Pius X formed of him that he asked him to act in an interim capacity, in effect as Pro-Secretary of State without seemingly appointing him formally as such. He headed the list of two at Pope Pius's first consistory, on November 9, 1903 (the other was Giuseppe Callegari, Bishop of Padua).

Archbishop Angelo Sodano, Secretary for Relations with States, was named Pro-Secretary of State on December 1, 1990. He was created cardinal on June 28, 1991, and was confirmed as Cardinal Secretary of State on the following day.

Obviously, there is no way of knowing how the work of the Papal G8 will affect the way in which Red Hats are distributed within the Roman Curia in the future,  but it is doubtful if it will impinge on this first Franciscan consistory. What may affect the numbers, if not the names, of those honoured at this is the fact that 36 of the 106 Cardinal Electors who will gather round His Holiness in February are cardinals in curia, 9 of them Emeriti heads of dicasteries, 6 of whom will cease to be Cardinal Electors before the end of 2014.

So who will definitely be joining Archbishop Parolin? Three current prelates of the Roman Curia, under the current rules and custom and practice, are certainties. They are:

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (65, birthday on Hogmanay; German) appointed on July 2, 2012, by Papa Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, of the International Theological Commission, and of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Pope Francis has already confirmed him in place and demonstrated his great confidence in him by having him write an 8,000 plus word article for L’Osservatore Romano explaining the Catholic Church’s position on the divorced and remarried, with especial reference to the teaching in relation to admission to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Beniamino Stella (72), Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. Appointed by Pope Francis, he was formerly an Apostolic Nuncio and most recently served as President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Academia.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès OP (70 on November 22 ), Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and Librarian of the Vatican Library. He was appointed on June 26, 2012, by Papa Ratzinger. (Going back to 1700, only 4 prelates appointed to head the Secret Archives were not yet Cardinals. All were created Cardinal at the next consistory.)

In addition, they will be joined by Archbishop Lorenzzo Baldisseri (73), Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. By placing his own now discarded red zucchetto (skullcap) upon Mgr Baldisseri’s head as he knelt to pay homage towards the end of the conclave, to which the good Monsignor had acted as Secretary, Pope Francis indicated his intention to create him cardinal at his first consistory. That His Holiness had not had second thoughts — there was some talk afterwards that he hadn’t fully appreciated what he had done — was reinforced not so much when he appointed him as Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, but more when he appointed him in such a way as to emphasise that the Synod was to become core to the way he intended to govern the Universal Church.

One other prelate must be rated almost definitely certain to join them. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (68) has been President of the Pontifical Council for the Family since June 26, 2012. That Pope Francis has chosen “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” as the theme for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops next year would strongly suggest that Mgr Paglia will be on the list.

(Two other heads of second tier dicasteries would in theory have a chance of being elevated but at the moment must be rated doubtful. These are, firstly, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski (64, Polish), President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers since April 18, 2009, and, secondly, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella (62), President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization since June 30, 2010. The latter is the more problematic. It would seem to me logical that especially bearing in mind what is said above in relation to Archbishop Paglia, the Papal G8 must be considering merging the Council for New Evangelization with that for the Family and erecting the joint body as a new Congregation.)

But who will join them from the particular Churches? Absolute certainty would seem to be possible in only two cases, both Latin American.

Archbishop Mario Aurelio Poli (66 on November 29) was appointed as his own successor in Buenos Aires by Pope Francis.

Mgr Orani João Tempesta (63), the Cistercian Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro was appointed by Papa Ratzinger on February 27, 2009, and three consistories have come and gone without his having been elevated because his predecessor, Eusébio Oscar Cardinal Scheid, was still a Cardinal Elector. (Although why he was not elevated at the mini-consistory in November last is a puzzle as Cardinal Scheid was to celebrate his 80th birthday a mere fortnight after it was held.)

After this it can only be guesswork. Of what degree or quality of inspiration is anyone's guess. There can be little doubt that Pope Francis intends to tackle the imbalance in the Sacred College. But how and when?

In Italy, two of the nine Red Hat Sees are currently headed by an Archbishop. Mgr Cesare Nosiglia (69) was appointed Archbishop of Turin on October 11, 2010, and has also been excluded from three consistories under Papa Ratzinger’s policy on succession. However, his predecessor, Severino Cardinal Poletto, turned 80 on March 18 last.

Archbishop Francesco Moraglia was appointed Patriarch of Venice on January 31, 2012, after Angelo Cardinal Scola was translated to Milan (June 28, 2011).

I personally cannot see Pope Francis omitting these two prelates, especially the latter (apart from anything else, three 20th Century Popes were elected from Venice: Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul I). His Holiness may be Argentinian but he is also an ethnic Italian. And Italy, and not just Rome, is still of immense importance to the church: culturally, spiritually and symbolically. Any Italian emigrant will tell you so!

I will return to this after suitable further cogitation. And maybe a pie and pint for lunch.

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