vrijdag 13 januari 2012

The Church’s new princes

In five weeks’ time, Pope Benedict XVI will create 22 new cardinals in the fourth consistory of his pontificate, 18 of whom will be eligible to vote in the next conclave to choose a new Pope. So who are those swelling the elite ranks of the Church?

If there were any doubts before last week, it is now clear to many that Pope Benedict XVI wants to keep the papacy firmly in the hands of the Europeans.

The Vatican’s announcement last week that Pope is to create 22 new cardinals in a consistory on 18 February revealed that nearly three-quarters of those receiving a red hat are from Europe (seven alone from Italy). The remainder of the appointments
in this the fourth consistory of the Ratzinger pontificate include three new cardinals from North America, two from Asia and one from Brazil. Four of those appointed are beyond the age of 80 and so ineligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new Pope.

Ten of the new cardinals are currently in charge of Roman Curia or Rome-based offices that, by long-standing custom, are almost always headed by a cardinal. Several in this year’s group were named to their posts as a reward for a lifetime of service

to the Holy See. Others are in a position, such as head of a congregation, where it is considered essential that he be of the highest ecclesiastical rank. The remainder are those who are residential bishops heading major archdioceses that are traditionally headed by cardinals.

As of 18 February there will be 125 cardinal-electors, five beyond the ceiling of 120set by Pope Paul VI. And for the first time, now standing at 63 those created by Benedict XVI will outnumber by one those created by Blessed John Paul II. In the course of nearly seven years as Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict will have created a total of 68 cardinal-electors, although three of these have already lost their vote by turning 80 and two others have died. He will have named 39 of the current 67 European electors (and 21 of the 30 Italians), but only six of the 22 voters from Latin America.

Significantly, 43 of the 125 electors are heads or retired heads of Roman offices, while another 14 residential cardinals once worked for the Vatican as priests. This puts the Curia voting bloc at 57 members. It is not apparent that this group, the Italian bloc or the European coalition as a whole is united enough to ensure the election of one of its members. But these distinct interest groups will all be determinant in choosing a compromise candidate who becomes the next pope.

(Source: Robert Mickens, - The Tablet, 14 January 2012)