October 24, 2012, Wednesday — New Cardinals

Pope Benedict today made the highly unusual decision to announce that he will hold a second consistory this year, on November 24, to create six new cardinals. In other matters, Bishop Richard Williamson was expelled today from the Society of St. Pius X


Another consistory

Pope Benedict XVI caught almost everyone off guard today, announcing at the end of his Wednesday General Audience that he planned to call a Consistory to create new cardinals for November 24, one month from today.

For the past 50 years, there have never been two Consistories in one calendar year. This Consistory will come just 9 months after Benedict’s most recent Consistory in February.

The last time there were two Consistories in less than 12 months was in 1960-1961, but they were not in the same year (March 28, 1960 and January 16, 1961).

One has to go back more than 80 years, to 1929, for the last time two Consistories occurred in the same year, under Pope Pius XI.

Here are the names of the six new cardinals:

The New Cardinals

1. James Michael Harvey; Prefect of the Papal Household (American)
2. Béchara Boutros Raï, O.M.M.; Patriarch of Antiochia (Antioch), Lebanon (Maronite)
3. Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal; Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, India (Syro-Malankarese)
4. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria
5. Jesus Ruben Salazar Gomez; Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia
6. Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle; Archbishop of Manila, Philippines

What are the “take-aways” from this decision?


1. No Italians were chosen. In an ordinary Consistory, men like Francesco Moraglia in Venice and Cesare Nosiglia in Turin would have been expected to be named. But the Pope did not include them. Why? Well, a large number of Italians were chosen in the last two Consistories, sparking some criticism that deserving prelates from outside Italy were being overlooked. The decision to choose so many Italians was generally attributed to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State. Benedict seems to have heard the criticism, and the names chosen seem to be, at least in part, his response. So no Italians.

2. No Curial cardinals were chosen (though Archbishop Harvey works in the curia now, as Prefect of the Pontifical Household, he will be moved, the Pope said, outside the Curia, to the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls). Normally, men like Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, the new head of the Conregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and several other curial officials, would have been made cardinals in a new Consistory. So this will be not only a “non-Italian” but also a “non-Curia” Consistory. So no Curial officials. Does the Pope need to be clearer?

3. The emergence of the Eastern rites. Boutros Rai is the head of the Lebanese Maronites and Thottunkal is the head of the Syro-Malankars, an eastern rite. The Pope evidently thought it important to have two new Eastern rite cardinals in the college. Note: the Eastern rite liturgies have much in common with the liturgies of the Orthodox Churches.

4. Global representation. The men chosen are from every continent except Europe: two from Asia (India and the Philippines), one from the Middle East (Lebanon, which could be considered part of Asia — “Asia Minor” — I suppose), one from Africa (Nigeria), one from South America (Colombia), and one from North America (Harvey). So, no Europeans…

5. The “Vatileaks” case. A certain mystery surrounds the case of Archbishop Harvey. Harvey is only 63, relatively young to be named a cardinal. But more than this, the Pope’s choice of words when he announced today that he had decided to make Harvey a cardinal suggested to some onlookers that the decision had been “last-minute.” Writing for Korazym, Andrea Gagliarducci noted: “La decisione appare arrivata all’ultimo momento. Nell’annunciare la creazione a cardinale di Harvey, Benedetto XVI dice semplicemente che ha “in animo” di nominarlo arciprete di San Paolo…” (“The decision seems to have been made at the last minute. In announcing the creation of Harvey as a cardinal, Benedict XVI said simply that he had ‘in mind’ to name him archpriest of St. Paul’s…”) Gagliarducci went on to speculate that Harvey’s appintment may in part be a result of the “Vatileaks” case, as Harvey is known to have been one of those who recommended the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, for that post back in 2006. Gagliarducci writes: “Su Harvey si è puntato il dito come colui che caldeggiò l’assunzione di Paolo Gabriele.” (“Fingers were pointed at Harvey as the one who had recommended the hiring of Paolo Gabriele.”) Gagliarducci also writes that Harvey’s post — Prefect of the Pontifical Household — may be taken over by… Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, presently the Pope’s personal secretary. “Per Georg Gaenswein, segretario di Benedetto XVI, si prospetta un ingresso nella Prefettura della Casa Pontificia, magari proprio al posto lasciato libero da Harvey.” If this turns out to be the case, the make-up of the Pope’s innermost circle in the Apostolic Palace would be less American, more German.

Looking Ahead

After this upcoming Consistory is held, 12 cardinals will turn 80 between November 24, 2012 (the day of the Consistory) and the end of 2013. So Benedict could decide to choose some of those left out this time for one 12-cardinal Consistory, or two smaller 6-cardinal Consistories, during the upcoming year.

By the end of 2014, 20 Cardinals reach age 80, so early 2015 could be a potential date for still another Consistory.

By the end of January 2015 — just two years and three months from now — Cardinals Daneels, Farina, Meisner, Re, Tettamanzini, Humes, Amigo-Vallejo, Sardi, Rodé and Bertone himself all pass the age of 80.


Williamson expelled

In other news, the Society of St. Pius X announced today that Archbishop Richard Williamson, one of the four bishops consecrated by Arcbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, had been expelled from the Society. In a statement, the SSPX said Williamson been “excluded” from its ranks on October 4 because of his refusal to “show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors.” During the past 3 weeks, Williamson had been given a last opportunity to mend fences with his superiors, but had not done so, so the expulsion became final.

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