Saturday, May 26, 2007

Consistory: Wednesday or Bust

Earlier in the month, the lion's share of indications -- including a sudden curtailing of curial business on 28 June -- pointed to the likelihood of a consistory for the creation of as many as 20 new cardinals on that date.

A new intake to the Pope's senate on the vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul -- the first on Rome's patronal feast since 1991 -- would coincide with the distribution of the pallium to the metropolitan archbishops named in the past year, and the 30th anniversary of Joseph Ratzinger's own reception of the red hat. (On a side note, Benedict XVI marks his 30th as a bishop this week; the pontiff was ordained archbishop of Munich and Freising on 28 May 1977, the vigil of Pentecost.)

According to the latest, however, it's looking as if the smell of fresh scarlet might just be held past the summer, possibly 'til October or beyond. It wouldn't be the first time a B16 initiative hit a delay -- first slated for an Easter release, the promised letter to Chinese Catholics was said to be hitting print in time for this Pentecost, but has not yet materialized; plus, of course, there's the ever-elusive motu proprio on the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, which several curial officials have openly confirmed as imminent as reports have tipped it for a May publication. And these are but two among others.

While the Chinese letter's delay is seemingly tied in with the heightened stakes of Sino-Vatican relations after the April death of Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, the senior prelate of the state-backed Patriotic Association, and the document "freeing" the pre-Conciliar liturgy has been bogged down by complaints from various episcopal conferences and resistance in the Roman Curia, the cause of a seeming consistory holdup isn't as clear. A late fall date would give Benedict two more electoral slots to fill -- Cardinals Edmund Szoka and Angelo Sodano turn 80, the age of ineligibility to vote in a conclave, in September and November, respectively -- or the Pope could simply be biding his time, using the period to fill more top slots in his Curia and the global church, enabling him to bump more of his appointees to the front of the "red line," as it were.

Cardinals-designate receive the phone call informing them of their impending elevation three days in advance of the papal announcement, which is traditionally given by the Pope at either the his Sunday Angelus or the Wednesday General Audience. At present, there's no detectable ground movement of the kind seen in the run-up to the calling of the consistories in 2003 and 2006.

The June plan could still be put into effect, however, with the last theoretical date for its implementation being this Wednesday, the 30th, one day later than John Paul II's announcement of the class of 1991. Barring that, the traveling circuit will have to put its dreams of the weeklong festival away... for a few months.