Naming of new cardinals seen key indicator of pope’s curial reform
VATICAN CITY (UCAN) – Expectations are running high in Rome that Pope Benedict XVI will hold a consistory to create new cardinals in March and will announce their names on Feb. 22. There is also a growing conviction that he is about to introduce a reform in the Roman Curia and to make personnel changes in the Vatican, at the highest levels, over the coming weeks and months.
CARDINAL’S GALERO – Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle, the first resident archbishop of Washington, is depicted in a detail for the mural 'Saintly and Eminent Personages of the Americas' above the entrance of St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, while his ceremonial tasseled red hat, called a galero, hangs from the ceiling. Pope Benedict XVI announced the selection of 15 as new cardinals-elect, and a consistory set for March 24. (CNS photo/Catholic Standard)
While such expectations exist, the reality is that very few, if any, people know for certain what will happen and when. The German-born pontiff is a very reserved person and keeps his counsel to himself. He runs a tight ship, which excludes information leaks.
Ten months into his papacy, Vatican officials are still trying to identify his inner circle, his most trusted advisors. Cardinals and bishops, as well as senior Vatican officials, confess to being in the dark regarding the pontiff's intentions. As late as last week, many admitted in private conversations that they still have no precise idea what the pope is planning, though all expect him to call a consistory and to bring about some reform of the Roman Curia. In a word, Pope Benedict has kept everybody guessing.
The pontiff, who will be 79 in April, will reveal some of his intentions when he announces the names of the new cardinals. This will be the strongest indication yet as to the direction his pontificate may take.
Right now there is much speculation in Rome as to how many new cardinals he will create, as well as their identity.
Pope Paul VI decreed that the number of cardinal electors – cardinals under the age of 80 with the right to vote in a conclave – should not exceed 120. Pope John Paul II reconfirmed this limit, but also deviated from it on several occasions.
People are wondering what Pope Benedict XVI will do if, as expected, he calls a consistory for March. If he decides to abide by the limit – and the decision is entirely his – then he can create only 12 new cardinals, to fill the number of vacant places that would exist in the electoral college on March 25, the likely date for the consistory. Most church observers in Rome expect him to observe the limit.
There is consensus that he will give red hats to American Archbishop William Levada, his successor as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and to Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the personal secretary of John Paul II and now archbishop of Krakow.
If Pope Benedict abides by the aforesaid limit, he will have to make some hard choices when allocating the remaining 10 red hats among archbishops in the Roman Curia and those in residential sees around the world.
Apart from Archbishop Levada, six other Roman Curia archbishops are mentioned as candidates for the red hat: Giovanni Lajolo (Italy), secretary for relations with states, the Vatican's "foreign minister;" Franc Rode (Slovenia), prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Agostino Vallini (Italy), head of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican's highest judicial tribunal; Paul Cordes (Germany), president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum; Stanislaw Rylko (Poland), president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and a confidant of John Paul II; and Angelo Comastri (Italy), archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica.
The number of residential archbishops around the world considered candidates for the College of Cardinals is well over 30. This presents an even greater challenge for the pontiff, particularly if he wishes to change the geographical composition of the college of cardinal electors to reflect more clearly the countries where the majority of Catholics are now living – in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Right now there are proportionately fewer cardinals from these regions of the world, and he may wish to correct this.
Among those from Asia considered to be in line for the red hat are: Archbishops Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, Philippines: Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Ha Noi, Vietnam; Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul, South Korea; Vincent Concessao of Delhi, India; Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, China; and Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.
There are also several candidates from Europe, many from the Americas and some African candidates.
Many in Rome expect Pope Benedict to appoint a new secretary of state in the coming months to replace Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and some think the man chosen could be named among the new cardinals.
Pope Benedict also might name some cardinals who are over the age of 80, as John Paul II did.
Since becoming pope in April 2005, Pope Benedict has made few senior personnel changes in the Roman Curia. He appointed Archbishop Levada to succeed him as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and called Sri Lankan Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith back to the Vatican as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Last week he surprised many by appointing Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald as nuncio to Egypt and delegate to the Arab League. His decision "sent shivers through many Vatican officials, as they realized the changes had begun in the Roman Curia and wondered who would be changed next," according one ranking Vatican prelate, who asked not to be named. ...
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