Saturday, February 18, 2012

Today is Consistory Day in Rome - Twenty-two New Cardinals Created

Today Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins of Toronto was created a Cardinal of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI, along with twenty other bishops and one priest. 

Congratulations, Your Eminences!

* * * * * *

The format of today’s consistory followed the traditional format, but the ceremony was modified slightly to include prayers borrowed from ancient Roman liturgies.

Red, of course, is the colour of the day as the new cardinals are reminded that they are called to give their lives to God and the church, even to the point of shedding their blood.

Tradition and innovation, solemnity and festivity, high honour and a call to sacrifice are key parts of the creation of new cardinals.

The hushed moment when a churchman kneels before the pope and receives his red hat as a cardinal contrasts sharply with the mood in the Apostolic Palace that will prevail this evening when the public—literally anyone who wants to come—is invited in to congratulate the new cardinals.

Pope Benedict created the twenty-two new cardinals this morning during an "ordinary public consistory" in St. Peter's Basilica.

This evening, the Bronze Doors will open and the public will be allowed to swarm up the Scala Regia—the royal stairway—and into the Apostolic Palace to meet and greet the new cardinals.

A consistory is a gathering of cardinals with the pope. According to canon law, an ordinary consistory is called for consultation or for the celebration “of especially solemn acts,” such as the creation of new cardinals or a vote approving the canonization of candidates for sainthood, which took place this morning with the cardinals approving the canonization of several new saints, including Kateri Tekakwitha. Normally, the public consistory for new saints is attended by cardinals living in Rome, but the creation of new cardinals is an opportunity for all of them to exercise their role as advisers to the pope.

This will be the fourth time Pope Benedict has created new cardinals and will bring his total to 84 cardinals, of whom 79 are still alive; 63 of his appointees in the College of Cardinals will be under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

Like the consistories he held in 2007 and in 2010, today’s ceremony was preceded by a daylong meeting of the pope with the College of Cardinals and the cardinals-designate. Yesterday the cardinals and cardinals-elect discussed “Proclaiming the Gospel today, between 'missio ad gentes' and new evangelization” with Cardinal-designate Dolan of New York opening the meeting with his reflections.

The three-cornered, red biretta the pope placed on the new cardinals' heads is traditional, but the ceremony for this 2012 consistory has also been changed. In early January, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported, “The rite used up to now has been revised and simplified with the approval of the Holy Father,” in part to avoid any impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament like ordination.

But two ordinations preceded the consistory. Three of the new cardinals named by Pope Benedict are priests, not bishops. Church law says new cardinals must have been ordained at least to the priesthood and should be ordained bishops before entering the College of Cardinals. However, in recent decades, many of the elderly priests named to the college as a sign of esteem and gratitude for their service to the church have requested, and received, an exemption from episcopal ordination.

Maltese Augustinian Father Prosper Grech, an 86-year-old biblical theologian and one of the co-founders of Rome's Augustinian Patristics Institute, was ordained a bishop on February 8 in Malta and Father Julien Ries, 91, an expert on the history of religions, was ordained a bishop on February 11 in Belgium. On the other hand, in keeping with the Jesuit promise not to strive for a dignity in the church, Father Becker, a retired professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, said he would become a cardinal without becoming a bishop.

Another small change made to the consistory this year involves timing. The prelates received their cardinals' rings from Pope Benedict during the consistory this morning, rather than at the Mass they will concelebrate with the pope tomorrow. And, as customary, during the consistory they also received their assignments of a “titular church” in Rome, making them formally members of the Roman diocesan clergy, which is what the church's first cardinals were.

Now that the new cardinals have been created, the College of Cardinals has a record-high number of members. The total number of princes of the church has reached 213, surpassing the total of 203 reached with the consistory in 2010.

The incoming cardinals did not receive the traditional ring which was designed during the papacy of Pope Paul VI, depicting the crucifixion in bas relief (see below). 

The new gold rings (shown above), instead, bear the image of Saints Peter and Paul, underscoring the Church’s continuity from the time of the apostles.

Here is the description of the new ring from the program for today’s consistory:

The back part of the ring represents a stylized column like those found in Saint Peter’s Basilica, while the face is a bas-relief in the shape of a cross.

On the face are figures of Saints Peter and Paul, modeled on their statues located in front of the Basilica, representing faith and missionary proclamation.

Between the two Saints, as if to illumine them, is placed an eight-pointed star, a clear reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Inside the ring, beneath the face, are the arms of Pope Benedict XVI in bas-relief.


  1. Your grace, which church will be Cardinal Collins' titular church?

    1. Cardinal Collins was given the titular church of St. Patrick--a salute to his Irish forebears.