November 9 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


A Holy Father who is full of surprises

— HUGH McLOUGHLIN offers in-depth insight into the new cardinals to be elevated by Pope Benedict XVI at this month’s consistory

It may be unsurprising that Pope Benedict XVI has convened a consistory on the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King, after all this is the third time he has done so, but it is a surprise that this will be the first time since 1929 that there will have been more than one consistory convened in any particular year.

Even more surprisingly, at the forthcoming consistory on November 24, amongst the new cardinals there will be:


— No Curial Prelate for the first time since the consistory of July 15, 1929 (as Prefect of the Papal Household, Cardinal-elect Harvey is not a member of the Roman Curia, although he was recruited from it);

— No Italian for the first time since the consistory of December 19, 1927, and;

— No European for the first time since March 24, 1924.


Even more surprising are some of the names not on the list.

All of the consistories alluded to above were held during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI. A cursory examination of the consistories going back over the previous two centuries reveals that in general, up to and including the first quarter of the 20th century, consistories were more frequent, but smaller. However, large ones did occur but these were very much exceptions. Perhaps in the current economic climate Pope Benedict wishes to return to the practice of having smaller but more frequent consistories. It would also be a lot easier on his old bones.

Cardinal-elect Harvey

Number one on the list—the new cardinal who will have the signal honour and privilege at the consistory of addressing the Holy Father in behalf of all the new cardinals—is His Excellency James Michael Harvey. The Pope has already announced that he will be further honoured with appointment as Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls. However, the incumbent, Francesco Cardinal Monterisi is only 78—80 on March 28, 2014—and was appointed comparatively recently, on July 3, 2009. So it is not clear when this change will take place. A long, restful and much needed sabbatical would seem to be on the cards for Cardinal-elect Harvey.

As a young priest, Archbishop Harvey, from Milwaukee, was selected for training at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy—Class of 1976—with a view to a priestly career in the diplomatic service of the Holy See. His time at the Academia provides a further link to Scotland to add to his service as a deacon at St Paul’s, Muirhouse, Edinburgh. During his time at the Academia he obtained a doctorate in Canon Law under the supervision of Holy Family, Mossend’s, Fr Clarence Gallagher SJ. So, if Cardinal Keith O’Brien asks nicely, perhaps part of Cardinal-elect Harvey’s sabbatical might be spent here in Scotland.

It has been suggested in some places that Archbishop Harvey’s leaving the Papal Household is in some way linked to the recent jailing of the Papal butler. This is arrant nonsense. To put His Excellency’s departure into perspective, his elevation comes just under 15 years after his appointment. That is he has served three five-year terms (quinquennia). His two immediate predecessors did likewise, Cardinals Dino Menduzzi and Jacques-Paul Martin, serving 14 and 17 years respectively. So Cardinal-elect Harvey is not going ahead of his time.


His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of India’s Syro-Malankar Church will now become—at 53—the youngest cardinal and the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, at 55, the second youngest. There will then be five cardinals under the age of 60.

And comparative ecclesiastical youth is probably the explanation for one of those prelates not on the list. On March 23, 2011, Sviatoslav Shevchuk was elected by the Synod of the Greek Catholic Church of the Ukraine as Major Archbishop of Kiev, and hence head of that Church, by far the largest of the 22 Easter-rite Churches in full communion with Rome—and whose major archbishop is routinely created cardinal. He succeeded Lubomyr Cardinal Husar who will be 80, and hence lose his place in the College of Cardinal Electors, on February 26, 2013, a bare three months after the consistory.

Recalling that at the consistory in February, Cardinals Dolan and Duka were created cardinals as the Holy Father took into consideration the fact that their predecessors were due to lose their places as Cardinal Electors within a couple of months, one can only presume the reason for Archbishop Shevchuk’s omission must be his age. He is only 42 years old.

Archbishop Thottunkal, being a major archbishop of an Eastern-rite Catholic Church, will, like Cardinal Husar, become a Cardinal Priest. However, His Beatitude Béchara Boutros Raï, being a Patriarch, will enter the Order of Cardinals Bishop. Archbishop Raï’s elevation will bring to four the number of Cardinal Patriarchs, but only two will be Cardinal Electors, the other being Antonios Cardinal Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts. Undoubtedly, by creating Archbishop Raï a Cardinal Bishop, Pope Benedict wishes to send a clear and unmistakeable message to the Middle East and the rest of the world, and not just the Catholic World, that his paternal heart bleeds for his suffering children in the region. How better to demonstrate that than by creating cardinal the Patriarch of Antioch where the very name ‘Christian’ was first used?

Not on the list

Finally, to deal with at least some of the other prelates surprisingly not being created cardinal. They fall into two distinct categories: prelates of the Roma Curia and Diocesan ordinaries from throughout the Catholic world. There are 21 positions associated with the Roman Curia and Vatican City State which heretofore have been deemed reserved to cardinals, or, to archbishops who must be raised to the Sacred Roman Purple at the first opportunity. These most definitely included the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict himself headed—and where our Fr Patrick Burke now labours—and the Vatican Archivist and Librarian.

It was, therefore, a great surprise that the two prelates recently appointed to these positions were not included on the list. Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (64) was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on July 2. Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, OP —69 two days before the consistory— was appointed Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives and Librarian of the Vatican Library on June 26.  The predecessors of both are still Cardinal Electors—respectively, Cardinal Levada has just over three years to go and Cardinal Farrina only ten months—but you would have thought that such is the importance of these positions, particularly the former, that this would hardly have been a consideration.

Of the diocesan leaders omitted from the list, one from Italy is a great surprise and another one is barely comprehensible. The great surprise was the omission of Mgr Cesare Nosiglia, appointed Archbishop of Turin on October 11, 2010. After all, his predecessor Severino Cardinal Poletto, will be 80 on March 18 next, less than four months after the consistory—see previous reference to Cardinals Dolan and Duka.

The incomprehensible omission is Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice. His immediate predecessor is also still a Cardinal Elector but Angelo Cardinal Scola was transferred to Milan. How important is Venice? Well apart from being one of the few—three actually—Patriarchates in the Latin Church, in the last century three of its Patriarchs were elected Pope: St Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul I.

Of course, nearer to home the omission of Mgr Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, has caused much consternation south of the border.

Unsurprisingly, the question springs to mind: Will there be a Sixth Benedictine Consistory next spring?

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