The Consistory Begins....
While John Paul II convened a handful of extraordinary huddles with his red-hats through his 27-year reign, the sessions were never routine, nor coupled with the creation of new members of the papal "senate," until Benedict -- the first cardinal-dean raised to the papacy since the 1600s -- began the custom with his first batch of fresh scarlet in March 2006, continuing it ever since.
Given the pontiff's apparent (and freshly-implemented) preference to hold the elevation rites inside St Peter's Basilica -- not to mention the sizable number of electoral seats opening up over the next two years (no less than 23 reaching the ineligibility age of 80 by the end of 2012)... plus, indeed, his advancing age -- smart money would expect another gathering of the kind far sooner than the three years since the last.
What's more, though, it bears noting that, with the new crop of red birettas, the College's total membership -- reserved by tradition to 70 all of a half-century ago, their Conclave rights then intact for life -- will stand at a record high: 203, 121 of them under 80 and, ergo, able to enter a hypothetical papal election.
While no shortage of mainstream news reports worldwide sought (reality notwithstanding) to portray tomorrow's routine hodge-podge of topics -- to take place, per usual, in the Synod Hall (above) -- as some sort of sudden, epochal, high-stakes "summit" on clergy sex-abuse, the hot-button issue will likely comprise roughly an hour toward the 10-hour consult's tail-end, if that.
In that light, the full agenda of the "Day of Reflection and Prayer" bears noting in its proper context... and here it is, in the Vatican's summary:
The first [item] is the situation of religious freedom in the world and new challenges, with an introductory talk by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone SDBLastly, in light of Bertone's lead-off presentation, it bears noting that "Religious freedom, the path to peace" has been chosen by the Pope as the theme of the global church's 2011 World Day of Peace -- to be observed, as ever, on New Year's Day.
The second theme for reflection will be the liturgy in the life of the Church today, with a preliminary contribution from Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Three other contributions are scheduled for the afternoon session: "Ten years on from 'Dominus Iesus" by [Cardinal-designate] Angelo Amato SDB, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; and "the Church's response to cases of sexual abuse" and "the Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus', both to be delivered by Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Still to be released, B16's message for the yearly Peacefest will likely be honed by tomorrow's consultations.
PHOTOS: AP(1); Reuters(2)