Friday, November 16, 2007

The Red Hat Pre-Game Show

November Meeting usually takes on a feeling akin to the Fall Classic. This year, however, something on the horizon gave it more of an air of anticipation.

That "something," of course, is next week's consistory -- the first year-end creation of new cardinals since the class of 1994, whose elevations likewise took place over Thanksgiving Weekend.

The traditional cycle of festivities in Rome begins on Turkey Day, when the red hats-to-be join the rest of the college for two days of meetings with Pope Benedict... and CNS has a preview:
The ceremony to create the cardinals takes only an hour or so, but the celebratory and consultative events that surround it last four days.

The working part comes first, when the pope meets Nov. 23 with the College of Cardinals -- including the cardinals-to-be -- in a closed-door assembly. The main topic for the morning session is ecumenism, while the afternoon is open to "free interventions" on other matters.

On Nov. 24 the pope holds the consistory proper, a Liturgy of the Word, during which he pronounces a formula that officially creates the new cardinals.

Then, as each cardinal kneels before him, the pope hands him a scarlet biretta -- the "red hat" -- whose color signifies a cardinal's willingness to shed his blood for the faith. It's a moment that always prompts applause from pilgrim cheering sections.

In the afternoon, the Vatican hosts receptions for the new cardinals in an "open house" event that attracts thousands of well-wishers. For some, it's a rare chance not only to greet the cardinals but also to see rooms of the Apostolic Palace that are normally off-limits.

On Nov. 25, the pope concelebrates a morning Mass with the new cardinals, presenting each of them with a gold ring, a sign of their special bond with the church of Rome.

The consistory and the ring Mass are scheduled for St. Peter's Square, mainly because of the huge crowds expected. Rain and cold could force the events inside, but that's a worst-case scenario that liturgical planners hope they don't have to face.

On Nov. 26, the pope holds an audience with the new cardinals, their relatives and the pilgrims who have accompanied them. It's a less-formal event and gives the visitors a real chance to voice support for their favorite sons....

Although most of the attention will focus on the public events, the consultative session with cardinals is an important part of the program. Pope Benedict, continuing a tradition of his predecessor, convened the cardinals at his first consistory in 2006 to get their input on issues that included dialogue with Islam and outreach to Catholic traditionalists.

This time, the focus is on ecumenism.

"I am very happy and I am very grateful that the Holy Father has chosen this theme," Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's chief ecumenist, told Vatican Radio.

The cardinal said the session would include a report on the state of ecumenism, followed by a general discussion among the cardinals. The results of a recent Catholic-Orthodox meeting will be taken up, but the discussion will be much wider, covering relations with Oriental churches, Protestant churches and Pentecostal movements, he said.

Cardinal Kasper said the opportunity to examine ecumenical themes with all the world's cardinals was particularly important because "ecumenism is a mandate from Our Lord. It is not an option, it is an obligation for the church."
Once the new intake is formally created, the college will return to its maximum quota of 120 electors. While Benedict XVI was prepared to increase the traditional voting number by one to accommodate his new appointees, the death last week of Japanese Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, the former president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, moots the intended derogation from Paul VI's now-traditional limit, set in 1975.

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Besides sharing a home-state, both of the American cardinals-designate -- Philadelphia's John Foley, the pro-Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and Galveston-Houston's Daniel DiNardo -- have strong ties to the Society of Jesus.

DiNardo began his studies for the priesthood at Pittsburgh's now-defunct Bishop's Latin School, and Foley's a double Jesuit product, having attended Philly's St Joseph's Prep High School and the university of the same name on Hawk Hill. (What's more, before entering formation for his home diocese, Foley spent a period as a Jesuit novice.)

In an editorial written by America's Fr Denis Lenihan -- himself a Philly Jesuit -- the society's US magazine celebrates the choices:
The recognition of John Foley and his enormous contributions to the world of the Catholic media is a matter of special gratification to the editors of America. To have a knowledgeable former working editor in the College of Cardinals means that a man who fully understands the challenges of communications is now in an even more prominent position to share his wisdom and experience. The elevation of Daniel DiNardo is equally gratifying to his former teachers and to the people he served in Pennsylvania, Iowa and now Texas. All commentators have taken note of Texas as representative of the rich and vibrant Catholic tradition in the American southwest. Daniel DiNardo, with his Roman experience, brings a vision of the whole church to his people and will in turn speak of them to the universal church. We offer these men and their new colleagues all congratulations and our prayers.
The Jesuit editorial, however, neglected to mention that the Society actually has one of its own among the new class: Spanish Cardinal-designate Urbano Navarrete.

A former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University and top consultant to the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law, the 87 year-old Jesuit will not be ordained to the episcopacy, in keeping with the Society's tradition for its "honorary" cardinals over 80 who've been elevated in tribute to their lifelong service.

In other things America, the mag's current edition features an interview with the departing Father-General of the Jesuits, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. The General Congregation to elect Kolvenbach's successor as head of the church's largest religious community begins in Rome on 6 January.

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The US honorees are each bringing several groups to mark the big day. Cardinal-designate Foley has no less than four separate pilgrimages heading over to honor him: the mass delegation from Philadelphia, an international representation from the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a couple score representing the Catholic press in the States, and an ecumenical delegation of about 20 of his classmates from the Columbia School of Journalism Class of '66.

It was no secret that the main Foley pilgrimage had been arranged long before the papal announcement. As further evidence of this, the group was able to snap up the coveted Consistory Week lodgings of the DeiMollini and the Visconti Palace.

Two groups of pilgrims to cheer on Cardinal-designate DiNardo will likewise be in the mix -- a planeload and more from Houston, and another from his hometown of Pittsburgh, most of whom are coming from the suburban parish he founded: Sts John and Paul in Marshall Township. 

All told, the revelers for the Cardinal of the South will total upwards of 700. First among 'em, Houston TV caught up earlier this week with DiNardo's sister, Peg, who recently moved with her husband to her twin's archdiocese.

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Lastly, the dean of the College of Cardinals, the retired Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, reaches the mandatory retirement age of 80 on Consistory Eve.

Though he stepped down as the Vatican's "prime minister" in September 2006, the birthday will trigger Sodano's ineligibility as a papal elector and his departure from the membership of multiple dicasteries, including the Congregations for Bishops and the Doctrine of the Faith, and the board of cardinals that oversees the Institute for the Works of Religion -- or, as it's more commonly known, the "Vatican Bank."

The cardinal-dean met with the Pope earlier this week. While the subject matter of the meeting remains unclear, quick-moving word indicates that festivities to mark the milestone will begin on Monday in Washington, as a Cleveland-born Dominican from Sodano's clan gets the nod to become Father-General of a different (read: "four-star") sort.

Just to clarify: if you're thinking Dominican as in "House of Studies," think again.

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