Sunday, September 01, 2019

To Everyone's Surprise, The Scarlet Is Served – Keeping To "The Peripheries," Pope Names 13 New Cardinals

The Fall Cycle that begins today was always looking to be unusually full... and all of 12 hours in brings its first shot from left field, likely the first of many over the next 10 weeks.

Bucking projections that didn't see a new crop of cardinals coming until late November at the earliest, at today's Angelus Francis announced his sixth Consistory to top off the College of Cardinals, naming 13 prelates – ten younger than 80 and thus eligible to enter a Conclave – to be elevated to the papal "Senate" on Saturday, October 5th.

Yet again, the makeup of the group – which the pontiff said was intended to "express the church's missionary vocation" – defies prediction and highlights his cherished "peripheries," with the first-ever red hats being given to outposts including the small European city-state of Luxembourg and Morocco in North Africa alongside the now-traditional seats of Havana, Jakarta, and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose nearly 7 million faithful comprise Africa's largest diocese. In addition, the elevation of Matteo Zuppi – the 63 year-old archbishop of Bologna – brings the scarlet to one of Italy's historic "cardinalatial sees" for the first time in Francis' seven-year pontificate.

Perhaps most notably of all, today's list sees the elevation of a simple priest into the ranks of the cardinal-electors – the Canadian Jesuit Fr Michael Czerny, 73 (above), who's served since 2016 as an under-secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development charged with overseeing the church's response to migrants and refugees: a post which saw the Pope break the Curial flow-chart to make Czerny report directly to himself.

While Jesuit priests older than 80 – usually distinguished theologians (Avery Dulles, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, et al.) – have routinely been given the red hat over the last half-century without being ordained bishops prior to the Consistory, Czerny is the first Jesuit not already a bishop to be elevated with a Conclave vote. Given said status and, with it, that the cardinalate is specifically tied to his Curial role, the Czech-born migrant is not likely to receive a similar dispensation from the episcopate and will be ordained a bishop at some point over the next month. (For clarity's sake, the elderly Jesuits were released from the requirement to be bishops in light of the Society's unique vow against seeking honors.)

Here, the list, in order of announcement, which dictates the seniority of the new designates upon their entry into the College:
  • Archbishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot MCCJ (Spaniard), 67, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; 
  • Archbishop José Tolentino Calaça de Medonça (Portuguese), 53, Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church; 
  • Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, 69, of Jakarta (Indonesia);  
  • Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez, 71, of Havana (Cuba); 
  • Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, OFM Cap., 59, of Kinshasa (DR Congo); 
  • Archbishop Jean-Claude Höllerich SJ, 59, of Luxembourg;
  • Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri, 72, of Huehuetenamgo (Guatemala);
  • Archbishop Matteo Zuppi, 63, of Bologna (Italy);
  • Archbishop Cristóbal López Romero SDB, 67, of Rabat (Morocco);
  • Fr Michael Czerny SJ, 73 (Czech-Canadian), Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development;
And the trio older than 80, "distinguished by their service to the church":
  • Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald M.Afr (English), 82, retired Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt;
  • Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, 80, emeritus of Kaunas (Lithuania);
  • Bishop Eugenio Dal Corso (Italian), 80, emeritus of Benguela (Angola)  
The official Vatican News site has released biographical sketches in English for each of the cardinals-designate.

Keeping the custom he established with his first class in 2014, the Pope blindsided his choices by not notifying them ahead of the announcement; by initial indications, many of the designates again seem the most surprised folks of all.

*  *  *
Among the group of "emeritus" picks over 80, the most pointed choice is easily Fitzgerald – long regarded as one of global Catholicism's keenest experts on Islam (to the point of being fluent in Arabic) – whose 2006 transfer by Benedict XVI from the Vatican's top post for interfaith relations to Cairo was widely viewed as a demotion, a departure that would mark the beginning of a prominent deterioration of Catholic-Muslim dialogue worldwide until Francis set to improve the ties upon his election. In another Francis-esque touch, America reported that Fitzgerald has been quietly serving in parish work in England over the last year after initially retiring to Jerusalem.

Once the new intake are formally invested with the biretta and ring, the voting College will have 128 members – eight above the standard maximum set by St Paul VI. However, that figure will return to 120 in November 2020 just on the basis of veteran cardinals turning 80.

Most critically of all, with the new class, Francis has reached a key tipping point – following the Consistory, the reigning Pope will have created 67 electors, giving his oft-unconventional picks a majority of the future Conclave for the first time...

...and lest anyone forgot, that's not merely significant because the cardinals choose the next Pope, but as one of them will be the next Pope.

As ever, more to come.