zaterdag 1 oktober 2011

The consistory and the Italian puzzle

2012 will see the celebration of the fourth creation of new cardinals of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate. The fourth Consistory of Pope Benedict XVI for the creation of new cardinals will be a puzzle not easily solved. In the last few days there have been persistent rumors in the Vatican that the Pontiff was about to announce a new "batch" of red caps, to celebrate the consistory on the Feast of Christ the King in November, as happened last year.

The idea, however, seems definitely to have waned, though technically there is still time: generally, a month passes between the announcement of a consistory and its celebration. It seems more likely that the creation of new "princes of the Church" will take place in 2012: in February or June. Currently, there are 113 cardinals with right of entry to the conclave (and thus, there are seven vacancies), and there will be 110 by year-end: a consistory in November could therefore provide a dozen new cardinals under eighty. In February 2012, there will be 12 seats available (and there could even be a consistory with as many as fifteen new voting cardinals), while in June the number of posts would increase to 18. Finally, in November 2012, a consistory could be held that would create 25 new cardinals.

One problem will be the high number of Italians. Of the 13 cardinals who will turn eighty in 2012, thereby forfeiting the right to enter the conclave, only one, Renato Raffaele Martino, is Italian. And, compared with only one Italian exiting the college of voters, at least four or five are expected to enter, increasing the Italian patrol in the most exclusive club in the world, the voters who elect the Pope.

There are already two archbishops residing in our country that are waiting for the cardinal's hat: Giuseppe Betori, of Florence, who missed his turn in the preceding consistory, and Cesare Nosiglia of Turin, who was also nominated before the creation of cardinals in November 2011. To these two, should the consistory be held in June, one must add the new patriarch of Venice, the successor of Cardinal Angelo Scola, moved to Milan, whose appointment is expected early next year.

The last consistory rigidly and categorically applied the rule of not including on the list residing archbishops whose predecessor emeritus is under eighty, and therefore voting in the conclave, even if this cardinal had been recalled to the Roman Curia. It will be interesting to see how things will proceed concerning these and other important episcopal sees whose occupants are traditionally elevated to the cardinalate. If the rule were to be re-applied, it would exclude Florence and Turin again, as well as Toledo, Philadelphia, Mechelen-Brussels, Los Angeles, Santiago de Chile, Rio de Janeiro and Quebec. Among the paradoxes of such a strict application of the rule, is the case of Toledo: the current archbishop, Braulio Rodríguez Plaza, at 67 ½ is older than his predecessor, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, who turns 66 in two weeks, called to Rome as Prefect of Divine Worship. This means that, in theory Rodríguez Plaza would never have the chance to enter the college of cardinals.

But the overcrowding of Italian candidates for the red hat comes above all from the Roman Curia. In fact, scarlet awaits the Prefect of Propaganda Fide, Fernando Filoni; the president of the Administration of Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), Domenico Calcagno; the new president of the Governorate, Giuseppe Bertello and finally the new president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Giuseppe Versaldi (the latter was appointed to lead the "Vatican Court of Auditors", but did not leave the diocese, where he got permission to stay for a few months, doing double duty as a result of pastoral projects undertaken by him). As one can see, there are already four, to which could be added Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for the interpretation of legislative texts (and possible candidate to head the Apostolic Penitentiary); and in view of the Synod on the new evangelization, also the President of the Pontifical Council by the same name wanted by Pope Ratzinger, Archbishop Rino Fisichella.

In the Roman Curia, the only non-Italian to be taken for sure is the Brazilian Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious. As one can see, the Italians, and the curial Italians, this time, too, could make up the lion's share, laying claim to a large part of the new posts in the consistory. There is also expectancy to see how Latin America will fare, penalized last consistory.

Some are hoping that certain heads of curial offices will have to wait a turn, as happens nowadays with the large archbishoprics in the world. Benedict XVI, unlike his predecessor, is keen not to exceed the number of 120 cardinal electors established in his days by Paul VI. And although consistories for the creation of cardinals are events totally dependent on the will of the Pope - who is accountable to no one for his choices, preferences and exclusions - a certain balance has always been sought in formulating the list of new cardinals, including persons coming from various continents and from Churches who are suffering for various reasons, as well as pastors who have distinguished themselves by their courageous witness.

At one time the Roman Curia was composed almost entirely of Italians and there is also, according to several scholars of church history, an "Italian vocation" to the Curia. While it was Pius XII and his extraordinary creation of cardinals in 1946 that gave a decisive boost to the internationalization of the College of Cardinals, it was above all with Paul VI that the Roman Curia was opened to the world.

(Bron: La Stampa - Vatican Insider)