Tomorrow the Announcement?

At noon tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI will announce the names of 22 new cardinals, according to reports from unnamed by generally reliable sources. If the consistory is announced, it is possible that among the men Benedict names will be his successor, the next Pope…

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

The announcement tomorrow?

The much-rumored November 20 consistory, it appears, is on.

Unless something unexpected happens, tomorrow, October 20, at his regular Wednesday General audience. Pope Benedict XVI will announce the names of about 20 new cardinals, and convene a consistory to create the new cardinals for Saturday, November 20, one month from now.

At that ceremony, the new cardinals will receive the red hat. The color symbolizes the commitment of the cardinals to hold fast to the faith “even unto the shedding of blood” (“usque ad sanguinis effusionem”, literally “up to of blood the shedding”) — that is, up to martyrdom.

The new cardinals with then celebrate Mass with the Pope on the Feast of Christ the King, Sunday, November 21, and at that Mass they will receive their cardinalatial rings directly from the Pope.

(Note: Inside the Vatican magazine will organize a small pilgrimage, limited to 12 people, to visit the Vatican and attend the consistory. See below for further details.)

Tornielli breaks the news…

The news is still not official — the Vatican has not made any official announcement — but is now given out here in Rome as certain.

Here is the note published this morning on his popular blog “Sacri palazzi” by Andrea Tornielli, one of the leading Vaticanists, who writes for the daily Il Giornale of Milan:

“As anticipated by Il Giornale in the past few days, tomorrow morning, at the end of the General Audience, Benedict XVI will announce the third concistory of his pontificate (the prior ones were held in February 2006 and in November 2007). The new cardinals — the posts available for the ’empurpled’ electors are 19, to which must be added a few who are above the age of 80 — will receive the red berretta this coming November 20, while on November 21 they will participate in the celebration in St. Peter’s and will receive, again from the Pope’s hands. the cardinalatial ring. If the forecasts on the eve (of the announcement) will be confirmed, there will be many Italians on the list. Among those over-80 is expected the ex-maestro of the Sistine Chapel, Domenico Bartolucci.”

The original Italian:

Come anticipato dal Giornale nei giorni scorsi, domani mattina, al termine dell’udienza generale, Benedetto XVI annuncerà il terzo concistoro del suo pontificato (i precedenti si sono tenuti nel febbraio 2006 e nel novembre 2007). I nuovi cardinali – i posti disponibili per i porporati elettori sono 19, ai quali vanno aggiunti alcuni ultraottantenni – riceveranno la berretta rossa il prossimo 20 novembre, mentre il 21 novembre parteciperanno alla concelebrazione in San Pietro e riceveranno, sempre dalle mani del Papa, l’anello cardinalizio. Se le previsioni della vigilia saranno confermate, nella lista ci saranno molti italiani. Tra gli ultraottantenni si attende la nomina dell’ex maestro della Cappella Sistina, Domenico Bartolucci. (Link:

Whispers and Mysteries

So now everyone in Rome is wondering who the Pope will name as his new cardinals.

“The names! The names! That’s the question now!” one Italian friend said to me early this afternoon.

The situation is rendered dramatic because some 35 men, perhaps even 40, would normally be considered to have their “papers in order,” by their lifetime of work and their important contributions to the Church, to be named cardinals now. (For example, the bishop of my own diocese in America — the primatial diocese of America, Baltimore — Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, is one of these, but the former archbishop of Baltimore, now retired, Cardinal William Keeler, is still not 80, and there is a sort of unwritten rule that no city should have two cardinals under age 80; so it is not likely that O’Brien will be made a cardinal tomorrow.)

Only 16?

But, I was told today, six of the cardinals the Pope is naming will be above age 80.

Now, this would be completely unexpected.

All prognosticators on this matter believe the Pope will name 19 cardinals under age 80, filling the voting membership up to 120.

If Benedict actually does only name 16 cardinals under age 80, the number of voting cardinals will only be 117 after this consistory, not the maximum of 120. Three spots will be left open.

This would be against almost all predictions.

Nearly everyone following Vatican affairs treats the decision on the number of cardinals under age 80 as something absolutely to be taken for granted. The belief is that the Pope will immediately, without hesitation, name cardinals to every available spot under age 80, bringing the number of voting cardinals to 120.

But what if he doesn’t do that? What would that mean?

First, it would mean that Benedict is unpredictable.

Second, it might mean that Benedict does not want to be predictable, that he wishes to exercise his authority by “breaking the mold,” by doing what no one expects his to do.

Third, it might mean that he has some further design in mind.

But what might that design be?

Could he be suggesting that, bit by bit, he would like to bring the number of cardinals back down from 120 to a smaller number, to 100, for example, or even to 70, which had a kind of biblical significance, and was the accepted number for centuries, before Pope John XXIII went beyond it?

It is well know that Benedict has a vision of decision-making in the Church — and in the world too — as something that should be based, not on sheer numbers, but on truth.

If one man is right and 99 are wrong, and the 99 impose their will in a majority vote, it does not change the fact that the one man is still right, and the majority is still wrong.

And in the papal conclave, the most important thing is not to have representatives of every nation or region or ethnic group in the Church, which would reflect a logic of representation familiar to modern democratic societies, but to have holy men, wherever they are from.

This would be the message if — if — Benedict were to choose only 16 under-80 cardinals tomorrow.

He would be suggesting that the tendency in recent decades to adapt the Church’s decision-making and even conclave-voting to the parameters of the modern democratic process — one cardinal from every region, one cardinal for every “demographic” in the Church — which is not relevant to the Church.

He would be rejecting the logic behind the decision to expand the number of cardinals so greatly (“with more Catholics, we need more cardinals to represent them”) and to make the college less Eurocentric and Italocentric.

The Number Seventy

If the Pope chooses to leave the number of cardinals under 120, does it mean he is considering slowly, three cardinals at a time, reducing the number to 100, or even 70?

That would perhaps be a stretch — it seems beyond the realm of the possible that the College of Cardinals would be reduced again, after more than 50 years above the level of 70.

But it is interesting to reflect on the fact that the number 70 has a profound biblical basis.

In Genesis, it is said that there were a total of 70 nations which peopled the earth (see Genesis 10).

In Genesis 46, we are told that 70 souls migrated with Jacob into Egypt. These 70 built up the nation of Israel. (See Genesis 46:27; Exodus 1:5 and Ruth 4:11)

Perhaps most relevant of all, 70 elders made up Israel’s great Tribunal (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16, afterwards called the Sanhedrin), and Jesus chose 70 disciples to send out to prefigure the mighty host which would follow them (Luke 10:1,17) in spirit and in power.

And 70 a is the number specially connected with Jerusalem. Jerusalem, kept its sabbaths for 70 years, while Judah was in Babylon (Jeremiah 35:11). And seventy sevens were determined upon it to complete its transgression, and bring in everlasting righteousness for it (Daniel 9:24).

This may explain why Pope Sixtus V, who ruled from 1585 to 1590, limited the number of cardinals to 70, composed of six cardinal bishops, 50 cardinal priests, and 14 cardinal deacons.

The number remained at 70 for more than 350 years.

Pope John XXIII began to exceed the overall limit of 70, and this has continued under his successors.

At the start of 1971, Pope Paul VI set an age limit of 80 years for electors, who were to number no more than 120, but set no limit to the number of cardinals as a whole.

Possible names

In Tornielli’s blog, a reader writes: “Sarei davvero felice di vedere Mgr Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don accedere alla porpora” (“I would be very happy to see Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith receive the cardinal’s purple.”)

Tornielli responds and gives a list of the possible names of the new cardinals: “Concerning the non-Italians (in addition to the curial officials Burke and probably Koch), I would say: the archbishops of Munich in Bavaria (Germany), Reinhard Marx; of Warsaw, Kazimierz Nycz; of Washington, Donald W. Wuerl; of Kinshasa, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya; of Colombo, Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don. to these I would perhaps add Collins di Toronto and an eastern Patriarch, and perhaps the archbishop of Toledo.”

These are 10 names.

If the rumor that only 16 will be chosen in total is true, and these names are correct, there may be only six other names, and most of them may be Italian.

But it will be only a few hours now until we know what the Pope has decided. Let’s wait and see.

A visit to the Consistory
Rome during the time of a Consistory is fascinating. There are the cardinals themselves, of course, but also all of their family members, friends and well-wishers.
On the evening when the cardinals are created, November 20, something special happens. The Vatican opens its doors, and friends and well-wishers of the new cardinals will be able to visit them inside the Vatican, to congratulate them and to assure them of their prayers, and to receive their blessings.

Therefore, we are inviting a few people to join with us during the Consistory days, no more than 12, to attend the Consistory, to go on the courtesy visits inside the Vatican, and to attend the papal Mass the following day on the Feast of Christ the King in St. Peter’s Basilica.

If you wish for more information about this Consistory visit, please email us at or call 904-699-0960.  We expect to fill these 12 seats very quickly.  Therefore, if you would like to join us, call or email as soon as possible.

If you have ever wished to come to Rome and visit the Vatican, consider joining us for the Consistory.
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