Saturday, March 25, 2006

Under New Management

With the Mass of the Rings concluded and as the pilgrims prepare for their trips home, the festivities of this Consistory Week will now scatter across the next few months as the new cardinals take possession of their proper titular and diaconal churches.

The possession-taking has a series of rituals all its own. And it allows each cardinal to have an impressive Roman ceremony all his own for his friends, colleagues, and anyone else who wishes to show up.

The new cardinal, wearing his choir dress (the red cassock, mozzetta, rochet and biretta) is received at the door of the church, where he is given a Crucifix to kiss and the aspergium to bless himself and those around him with holy water. By custom, the cross is always offered on a red silk pillow. He then processes up the aisle toward the altar of reservation, at which is a predieu which, again, is swathed in red silk.

After spending some time before the Blessed Sacrament, he goes to vest and Mass proceeds. After its conclusion, he signs the requisite documents which confirm his reception of the church.

The bulk of the possession-takings usually take place on Consistory Weekend -- i.e. they would be happening tomorrow.

Sometimes, extenuating circumstances block this: in 1991, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua could not hold a Sunday Possession Mass at SS. Redentore e San Alfonso on Via Merulana as John Paul II had previously scheduled a visit to the church, so Bevilacqua got to concelebrate alongside him. In 2001, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's titular, Ss. Nereus and Achilleus (which also belonged to Dennis Dougherty, the first Pharaoh of Philadelphia) was under renovation, so his possession-taking had to be pushed back. Others just delay it -- a luxury particularly open to the Curial cardinals, who are always in town and don't need to make a special trip solely for that purpose.

However, as of this morning, only two possession Masses have been announced by the Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations, which handles the arrangements. Tomorrow evening, William Cardinal Levada will have his Mass at S. Maria in Dominica at 5pm. And on Tuesday, Peter Poreku Cardinal Dery will take possession of Sant’Elena Outside the Porta Prenestina at a 6pm liturgy.

My dear friends at Catholic Press Photo -- who always do remarkable work -- will cover all the possession-takings, so keep a close eye there....

And why was Cardinal Stasiu wearing two pectoral crosses last night? We know he's special, but still -- there is such a thing as a bling limit....

Reuters/Tony Gentile