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How the consistory works

A look ahead to a busy few weeks at the Vatican

How the consistory works

Picture: Whispers In The Loggia

Rocco Palmo for Whispers In The Loggia
Vatican City

January 9, 2014

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(Note: this blog was posted on Sunday January 5)

With a 22 February Consistory already announced, this weekend begins the time-honored waiting-game for Francis to reveal his first batch of new cardinals so the necessary public prep for the rites can duly get underway.

If prior practice holds, the biglietto (literally, the "ticket" listing the cardinals-designate in specific order of precedence) will be read out by the Pope either at an Angelus or Wednesday Audience within the next two weeks. In recent rounds, the choices have been privately tipped off a day in advance by their local Nuncio, or the Secretariat of State for those resident in Rome. 

Though Consistory announcements have traditionally been anticipated by a flood of pre-game indications – and, in an unprecedented move, the coming event was confirmed by the Holy See four months in advance – the news of B16's last batch in October 2012 came as a genuine shock on practically all sides. Since his own election, meanwhile, Francis' consolidation of his decision-making and communications operations at the Domus has resulted in the most leak-proof Vatican administration in recent memory.

In addition to the core rites themselves – the Consistory to confer the red hat and ring on the new cardinals on the 22nd and a concelebrated liturgy the following day – the days preceding the celebrations will bring the third meeting of Francis' eight-man Council of Cardinals (which could well be expanded to include members of the new intake), as well as two days of consultation among the whole 200-member College, set to focus both on the reform of the Roman Curia and, as announced last week, October's Extraordinary Synod on the pastoral challenges facing the family.

Beyond tomorrow's usual Noontime appearance at his office-window, Monday's Epiphany offers Papa Bergoglio an extra opportunity to relay his picks; maintaining the tradition of his predecessors, Francis will celebrate a morning Mass in St Peter's before an extra-edition Angelus for the major feast marking the 12th day of Christmas, which is transferred to Sunday in most of the Catholic world. To be sure, there's recent history to this – a Consistory on 18 February 2012 and its 22 cardinals- designate were announced by Benedict on the preceding Epiphany.

As things stand, by the designated date this time the College will be 14 men short of the statutory maximum of 120 voting members younger than 80, set by Paul VI in 1973. Though another ten cardinals will age-out of a hypothetical Conclave over the course of 2014, the Pope is fully free to dispense from the now-customary limit, which John Paul II once pushed as high as 135.

Given Francis' own reluctance toward convention for its own sake and willingness to set it aside, it'd come as little surprise if the Argentine pontiff opts to go beyond the 120 figure, in particular to begin in earnest a widely expected project to spread the scarlet to areas where large, especially vibrant Catholic populations have been historically underrepresented  to a glaring degree in the papal "Senate."

Full Story: As "Scarlet Bowl" Nears, The Watch Begins....

Source: Whispers In The Loggia

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