Friday, January 6, 2012

New Cardinals for the Holy Roman Church

Pope Benedict XVI made a much-anticipated announcement today. He announced that a Consistory will be held in Rome on 18 February 2012. During that gathering of Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church he will create 22 new Cardinals. Eighteen of whom are men under the age of 80, who will, upon becoming members of the Sacred College, join the ranks of Cardinal-electors and be eligible to participate in the Conclave to select the next pope.

Among those named are two U.S. prelates: Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Cardinal-elect O'Brien previously served as Archbishop of the U.S. Military Archdiocese and as Archbishop of Baltimore before being named as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre) and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. It is customary not to elevate the current bishop of a cardinalatial see to the Sacred College until after his successor, assuming he is a cardinal, becomes superannuated, that is, reaches the age of 80, at which time he is no longer a Cardinal-elector. Cardinal-elect Dolan's predecessor in New York, Cardinal Egan turns 80 this year, a few months after the Consistory. This rule is also why Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles was not selected this time around.

Additionally, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto was also chosen. The Holy Father will also give the red hat to four honorary members of the Sacred College for their devoted and notable service to the Church. All of these Cardinals-elect are over 80. While I was very gratified to see the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church named as a Cardinal, I was surprised not to see Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi of the Maronites on the list. While it is a bit ecclesially odd and awkward to name Patriarchs as Cardinals it is presently the only way for them to participate in the governance of the Church Universal. I hope that some day soon Patriarchs in communion with the Bishop of Rome will have their patriarchal dignity fully recognized, which would permit them, among other things, to participate in Conclaves without first having to be created Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church.

For the complete list, see John Allen's blog post, Pope names 22 new cardinals, including Dolan and O'Brien.


  1. It is NOT customary to name an Eastern Rite Patriarch a Cardinal while his predecessor is still living,whatever the custom may be for Latin Rite bishops.I would be very surprised to see Rai named a Cardinal in Cardinal Sfeir's lifetime...just as Sfeir waited for the death of Cardinal Khoraiche.

  2. That is a custom with which I am unfamiliar, Louis. I would note that unlike the custom of not creating a cardinal of a sitting archbishop until his predecessor is superannuated, it doesn't make a lot of sense because it potentially reduces the participation of the Eastern Churches in a conclave. Besides, Rai was on the list of many notable Vatianisti, like Magister, who wrote back on 28 December: "The list should include the new archbishops of Berlin (Rainer Maria Woelki), Toronto (Thomas C. Collins), and Utrecht (Willem J. Eijk), the bishop of Hong Kong (John Tong), as well as the new Maronite patriarch Bechara Rai in Lebanon and the new major archbishop of the Syro-Malabars in India, George Alencherry."

    My main point is that it really doesn't make sense for a non-Latin Patriarch to be created a Cardinal in the first place. Among the prerogatives a non-Latin Patriarch should have by virtue of his position is a place in conclaves, even when he is superannuated, as long as he is actively serving. The good news is that this is not lost on the Holy Father. I hope he will act on some of the proposals he received from the Special Synod on the Church in the Middle East.


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