Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Usque ad Sanguinis Effusionem"

"For you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude, even to the shedding of your blood..."

That's the significance of cardinal red, and in the moment immediately before the conferral of the scarlet birette, it is the heart of the traditional exhortation given the college's new intake by the Pope.

The ceremony has begun, with more of a flair than most recent consistories have had -- keen evidence that, in the lace-clad Msgr Guido Marini, there's indeed a new MC in town. For the first time in memory, the white-upholstered modern Popechair has been laid aside for a liturgical celebration in Rome, replaced today by a gilt, antique papal throne called in from the Vatican back-stock. Similarly, B16's ditched the customary choir-dress to vest in a similarly old-style golden mitre with matching cope (and morse), with the former said to date from the pontificate of Bl. Pius IX (1846-78).

Formally "publishing" the biglietto or "ticket" of creation at the consistory's start, the papal proclamation of the new cardinals' names attracted applause from most of their attendant pilgrimages. The louder cheers came from, among others, the delegations for Cardinals Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa; Sean Brady of Armagh; Francisco Robles Garcia of Monterey, Mexico, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of St Peter's, whose pilgrims began the applause and shouting.

In an unusually pointed iteration of the traditional "thank you" address on behalf of the entire group, new Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches cited the elevation of the patriarch of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, to underscore at some length the shedding of "tears and blood" in Iraq, "the land of Abraham."

The appeal by the veteran diplomat -- the first-ranked of the new class -- garnered a mid-speech ovation from the packed basilica crowd, estimated at 7,000.

For his part, the Pope himself echoed Sandri's sentiments in his homily.

Singling out only Delly by name among his appointees, Benedict XVI said his elevation of the 80 year-old Eastern hierarch was intended to convey, "in a concrete way," his own "spiritual closeness and affection" and "the solidarity of the whole church" with Iraq's suffering Christian community.

The pontiff also noted that, among the "dramatic consequences" of the "enduring conflict" remains a political situation which is "as fragile as ever."

PHOTO: AP/Pier Paolo Cito