VATICAN CITY –– Something old, something new, something borrowed and something red will be part of the mix Feb. 18 when Pope Benedict XVI creates new cardinals.
The general format of the consistory has been maintained, but the ceremony has been modified and will include the use of prayers borrowed from ancient Roman liturgies. Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan will even address the College of Cardinals on the subject of new evangelization.
And, of course, red will be the color of the day as the new cardinals are reminded that they are called to give their lives to God and the church, even to the point of shedding their blood.
Tradition and innovation, solemnity and festivity, high honor and a call to sacrifice are key parts of the creation of new cardinals.
The hushed moment when a churchman kneels before the pope and receives his red hat as a cardinal contrasts sharply with the mood in the Apostolic Palace that same evening when the public –– literally anyone who wants to come –– is invited in to congratulate the new cardinals.
Pope Benedict will create 21 new cardinals in the morning during an “ordinary public consistory” in St. Peter’s Basilica. For reasons of health, the 22nd cardinal-designate, German Jesuit Father Karl Josef Becker, 83, will not attend the ceremony and will be made a cardinal “privately at some other time,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
The evening of the consistory, the Bronze Doors will open and the public will be allowed to swarm up the Scala Regia –– the royal stairway –– and into the Apostolic Palace to meet and greet the new cardinals.
A consistory is a gathering of cardinals with the pope. According to canon law, an ordinary consistory is called for consultation or for the celebration “of especially solemn acts,” such as the creation of new cardinals or a vote approving the canonization of candidates for sainthood.
And, in fact, the consistory Feb. 18 will include both. Immediately after the new cardinals are created, all the “princes of the church” are scheduled to vote on several new saints –– including Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha –– Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, told Catholic News Service Feb. 1.
Normally, the public consistory for new saints is attended by cardinals living in Rome, but the creation of new cardinals is an opportunity for all of them to exercise their role as advisers to the pope.
This will be the fourth time Pope Benedict has created new cardinals and will bring his total to 84 cardinals, of whom 79 are still alive; 63 of his appointees in the College of Cardinals will be under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
Like the consistories he held in 2007 and in 2010, the February ceremony will be preceded by a daylong meeting of the pope with the College of Cardinals and the cardinals-designate. The Vatican said the theme will be “Proclaiming the Gospel today, between ‘missio ad gentes’ and new evangelization” with Cardinal-designate Dolan of New York opening the meeting.
The three-cornered, red biretta the pope will place on the new cardinals’ heads is traditional, but the ceremony for the 2012 consistory has been changed.
In early January, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported, “The rite used up to now has been revised and simplified with the approval of the Holy Father,” in part to avoid any impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament like ordination.
But two ordinations will precede the consistory. Three of the new cardinals named by Pope Benedict are priests, not bishops.
Church law says new cardinals must have been ordained at least to the priesthood and should be ordained bishops before entering the College of Cardinals. However, in recent decades, many of the elderly priests named to the college as a sign of esteem and gratitude for their service to the church have requested, and received, an exemption from episcopal ordination.
Maltese Augustinian Father Prosper Grech, an 86-year-old biblical theologian and one of the co-founders of Rome’s Augustinian Patristical Institute, was scheduled to be ordained a bishop Feb. 8 in Malta. Belgian Father Julien Ries, 91, an expert on the history of religions, told CNS he would be ordained a bishop Feb. 11 in Belgium. On the other hand, in keeping with the Jesuit promise not to strive for any dignity in the church, Father Becker, a retired professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, said he would become a cardinal without becoming a bishop.
Another small change made to the consistory this year involves timing. The prelates will receive their cardinals’ rings from Pope Benedict during the consistory, rather than at the Mass they will concelebrate with the pope Feb. 19. And, as customary, during the consistory they also will receive their assignments of a “titular church” in Rome, making them formally members of the Rome diocesan clergy, which is what the church’s first cardinals were.
Once the new cardinals are created, the College of Cardinals will have a record-high number of members. The total number of princes of the church will reach 213, surpassing the total of 203 reached with the consistory in 2010. As recently as 2001, the total number of cardinals dipped to 139 just before Pope John Paul II named a record 44 cardinals at once.