Monday, March 01, 2010

Red Dawn... Come Fall?

In a significant development that bears all the hallmarks of a coordinated leak, three of Italy's most reputable Vatican journalists have suddenly emerged to forecast B16's third creation of new cardinals for Christ the King weekend, 20-21 November... and hours after Tim Dolan said in an interview that he "wouldn't expect" the red hat this time around, the prospective slates relayed by all three include the name of the archbishop of New York.

While a November date (an encore of the last intake's 2007 elevation) has rounded the buzzmill for some time now, it should -- but, given the hysteria surrounding these things, can't -- go without saying that anything can change at any time. Still, the confluence of the Saturday pieces by Il Foglio's Paolo Rodari, La Stampa's Giacomo Galeazzi and Il Giornale's Andrea Tornielli is notable... and would appear to be more than mere coincidence.

In their reports, all three scribes heavily emphasized the "magic number" of 19 -- the number of nominees that would return the College of Cardinals to its full voting complement of 120 in the event of a conclave, and a figure Pope Benedict has (unlike his predecessor) committed himself to maintaining; the college's maximum largely kept at 70 electors since the 16th century, the limit was last formally raised by Paul VI in 1975.

While 111 red-hats would be able to vote in a papal election as of today, ten more "princes of the church" reach the ineligibility age of 80 before mid-November, as do another 12 between January 2011 and April 2012; as previously noted, among the soon-to-be seniores are six of the US' 12 voting cardinals -- an unprecedented figure in such a short period of time.

Bottom line: the next 27 months will deal Benedict a staggeringly broad hand to choose another quarter of the electoral college which would choose his successor -- add in the 30 electors he's already elevated, and, on age-wrought openings alone, just over half the voters in a hypothetical 2012 or later conclave would be his picks. What's more, unlike B16's prior porporati -- many of whom were named to cardinalatial posts in the twilight of John Paul II's 27-year reign -- almost all of the likelies still to enter the "Pope's Senate" were given their current slots in this pontificate and, as a result, passed the enhanced quality-control checks Joseph Ratzinger applies to his appointments.

While all three vaticanisti led their stories with an emphasis that the coming crop would be dominated by Europe and the Roman Curia -- including the "sure" elevation of the church's first American "chief justice," Archbishop Raymond Burke -- residential archbishops listed as "most probable" by the trio included Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Thomas Collins of Toronto, Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Laurent Monsengo Pasiya of Kinshasa, the Cistercian Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janiero, the Spanish primate Braujlio Rodriguez Plaza of Toledo, the former CDW secretary Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo, and Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot of Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital which Benedict visited on his African tour last March.

In a first for the strife-torn country, the prospective biglietti all conspicuously mentioned the name of the archbishop of Myanmar's capital of Yangon, the Salesian Charles Maung Bo, 61, and another unprecedented choice -- the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the veteran papal diplomat Archbishop Fouad Twal.

Above the rest, however, with the holders of the English-speaking church's two most prominent archdioceses facing the heretofore-unseen scenario of living predecessors -- cardinals who, more to the point, remain of voting age for two more years -- the biggest news of all is the prominent presence of both New York's Dolan and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster on each of the three published lists.

In his WABC interview aired yesterday morning, the 60 year-old Big Apple prelate said he "would doubt" the chatter of his elevation in the forthcoming batch, rightly reminding that the "praxis" of the Holy See is "that it is rare to have two cardinal-electors from the same diocese." Adding that his elevation would bring on "more expectations internationally," Dolan said he was looking forward to "a little more time to get my feet on the ground" in the nation's second-largest diocese, home to some 2.6 million Catholics.

Dolan's predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, turns 78 in April, as does Westminster's Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor in August.

No US nor UK see has ever boasted two voting cardinals at once.

On a domestic note, even more than last time, a red-hat giveaway on the reported weekend would create particular havoc for the Stateside church: the suspected Saturday comes less than 48 hours after the traditional Thursday-morning close of the USCCB Fall Meeting in Baltimore, and five days before Thanksgiving, to boot. Ergo, as the consistory and the next morning's Mass of the Rings merely kick off a week's worth of festivities in the Eternal City (Rome's biggest party outside a conclave), any American pilgrimages on the proffered timetable would likely be returning home amid what's usually the busiest air-travel period of the year.

And, well, that's the buzz as it stands... as always, stay tuned.