To Be Or Not To Be?

Will there be a consistory in November to name new cardinals, or will the consistory be postponed until springtime? Everyone has an opinion, but no one seems to know…

By Robert Moynihan

“The Pope wanted the consistory already in the spring of this year, and he will have it now; he won’t delay it any longer…” —Old friend who has worked in the Vatican for many years, in a conversation today

“Several more places for cardinals will open up this winter; I think the Pope in the end will be persuaded to wait and do one larger consistory next spring.” —Another old friend who lives in Rome, and usually it right when he speaks about Vatican affairs, in a conversation on Saturday

“Coloro che sanno non parlano, e coloro che parlano non sanno (Those who know, don’t talk, and those who talk, don’t know).” —Roman saying

(Note: This last saying interprets the prior two.)

Waiting for a Consistory

It’s a grey day in Rome, with a bit of rain, and the greyness is an appropriate veil for a mystery which has been puzzling Vatican watchers for months now.

The mystery is: Will Pope Benedict XVI announce a consistory for November, to be held on the Feast of Christ the King (November 21), to create 19 new cardinals — or not?

It’s a matter of some interest because the rank of cardinal is the highest in the Church, and not only will those named very likely be voters for the next Pope in a future conclave, but the next Pope himself may very well be among their number.

Oddly, for a matter of considerable importance, there is today no consensus in Rome as to whether the consistory will or will not be called.

And that leaves open room for many theories and hypotheses.

Since Marco Tosatti wrote in La Stampa a month ago that the consistory would be announced on or about October 20, I have assumed that there will be a consistory in November. (When the Pope decides to call a consistory, it is traditional to announce the names of the new cardinals about 30 days beforehand, so that all those named will have time to plan a trip to Rome for the ceremony. So, if the consistory is to be on November 21, we should have a public announcement no later than October 21, just 10 days from now.)

So we should have only 10 days more to await the resolution of this mystery.

Still, I thought I would ask around to see what I could find out.

So I went to one of the men who is almost certain to be among those named a cardinal, and asked him if he could enlighten me. He ought to know, if anyone, I thought.

“Well, will there be a consistory in November?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “No one has said anything to me.”

So I understood that even those who are likely to be named do not receive advance warning.

Then one of my colleagues went to one of the shops in Rome which prepares ecclesiastical vestments and asked how long it would take to fill an order. The owner of the shop said he could take orders now, but that next month he is blocked as he needs to fulfill special orders during the days “around November 20.”

“Ah ha,” I thought, when I heard that. “That means the consistory definitely will be in November, no doubt…”

Then I sat down with an Italian priest who knows the Vatican as well as anyone in the city, I would say, and who is almost always right when it comes to uncertainties needing to be clarified.

“So, I guess the consistory will be in November…,” I said.

“Perhaps,” he said. “I know that is what people are saying. But, look. There are only 19 posts open now, and by March there will be at least six or seven more. To some in the Secretariat of State, it seems prudent for the Pope to wait just a few months more. Many are in line for the red hat. Several more places for cardinals will open up this winter; I think the Pope in the end will be persuaded to wait and do one larger consistory next spring.”

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Could it be that the Pope will decide to wait, though everyone, even the ecclesiastical tailor, expects the consistory now?”

And so I asked another old friend to take a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch with me today. He has been here for decades and has followed all the nuances of the Vatican, in season and out, and often is accurately informed when others are not.

“So, the Pope may decide to postpone the consistory until the spring…,” I said.

“No,” he said, “my information is that the consistory will be announced next week, and will be held on the Feast of Christ the King. The Pope wanted the consistory in the spring of this year, and he will have it now; he won’t delay it any longer, though the Secretary of State is trying to persuade him otherwise. The Pope feels he has waited long enough…”

So, will the consistory be held in November?

Only the Pope knows for sure, and he hasn’t yet made his decision public.

Christ the King Sunday

I found the information below at the following website:
(So it is not my own writing.)

I include it because I think it is useful material about the Feast of Christ the King which can be worth knowing even if there is no consistory on that day.

Christ the King Sunday celebrates the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the cosmos. Officially called the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, it is celebrated on the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent. In 2010, the feast falls on November 21.

Liturgical Color(s): White
Type of Holiday: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation
Time of Year: Final Sunday of Ordinary Time (Sunday before Advent)
Duration: One Sunday
Celebrates/Symbolizes: Jesus as King, Messiah, and Lord
Alternate Names: Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
Scriptural References: Psalm 23; Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Pope Pius XI universally instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in his encyclical Quas Primas.

Pope Pius connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, secularism was on the rise, and many Christians, even Catholics, were doubting Christ’s authority, as well as the Church’s, and even doubting Christ’s existence…

Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. They were:

1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32).
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31).
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33)…

Christ the King Sunday used to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, but since the calendar reforms of 1969, the feast falls on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, which is the Sunday before Advent. It is fitting that the feast celebrating Christ’s kingship is observed right before Advent, when we liturgically wait for the promised Messiah (King).


The earliest Christians identified Jesus with the predicted Messiah of the Jews. The Jewish word “messiah,” and the Greek word “Christ,” both mean “anointed one,” and came to refer to the expected king who would deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans. Christians believe that Jesus is this expected Messiah. Unlike the messiah most Jews expected, Jesus came to free all people, Jew and Gentile, and he did not come to free them from the Romans, but from sin and death. Thus the king of the Jews, and of the cosmos, does not rule over a kingdom of this world.

Christians have long celebrated Jesus as Christ, and his reign as King is celebrated to some degree in Advent (when Christians wait for his second coming in glory), Christmas (when “born this day is the King of the Jews”), Holy Week (when Christ is the Crucified King), Easter (when Jesus is resurrected in power and glory), and the Ascension (when Jesus returns to the glory he had with the Father before the world was created). However, Pius XI wanted to specifically commemorate Christ as king, and instituted the feast in the Western calendar in 1925.

In the 21st century many Western Christians, Catholic and Protestant, celebrate Christ the King Sunday, including Anglicans and Lutherans. Unfortunately, in some mainline Protestant churches, “king” language is not popular, and the feast is downplayed. However, in a chaotic and unjust world that seems to scorn any kind of authority, many Christians proudly celebrate Christ the King Sunday, where the loving and merciful — and just — king of the universe is praised and glorified.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” —St. Paul, First Letter to Timothy, Chapter 6:12

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