Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scarlet Countdown: This Time, All "In"

The church's biggest dance-card is now officially set.

Earlier today, the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations gave formal notice of the rites to elevate the 24 cardinals-designate whose names were disclosed last week by B16.

In comparison with its recent predecessors, though, the 20-21 November event will make for cramped space and rough sight-lines for the throng of pilgrims expected to converge around the world -- for the first time in decades, both Saturday's Public Consistory giving the new cardinals the red hat and Sunday's Mass of the Rings are being planned for St Peter's Basilica itself, as opposed to the Square outside or the "Nervi" Hall.

To be clear, while the 2007 Consistory and Ring Mass ended up being held in the world's biggest church, they were scheduled to take place outside -- at least, until Rome's November rain season intervened. Amid a downpour on the morning of the elevations, the decision was made to move the ceremony into Bernini's masterpiece, whose limited capacity forced a sizable chunk of the pilgrims to watch the rite on the large screens set up in the Piazza.

Prior to that, amid growing numbers of revelers for the week of festivities, the intakes of 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005 took place in the Square; until then, the first six consistories of John Paul II were conducted in the audience hall. Over the preceding centuries, the Sistine Chapel served as the predominant site of the elevations -- a pointed reminder of each cardinal's most consequential function of all: namely, the conclave held in the same room.

In keeping with custom, the Consistory will take place at 10.30am Rome time on 20 November, with the concelebrated Ring Mass at 9.30 the following morning, the feast of Christ the King.

That said, lest one Red Dawn wasn't enough for anybody, quickly on the heels of last week's announcement word began to circulate in the Italian press that -- given the relative dearth of electoral vacancies in the College since 2007's intake -- another consistory of elevation could be held by the end of 2011 to "finish the job."

Once the limit of 120 cardinal-electors is replenished next month, at least ten more conclave seats will open in 2011. Another 13 cardinals reach the ineligibility age of 80 in 2012, with an additional 10 in 2013.

As a result, having already chosen 50 voting red-hats since his 2005 election, by his eighth year on Peter's chair, B16 could choose 70% of the Conclave that will elect his successor.