Politics and faith, courtesy of the bishops of Costa Rica

I’m not much up to date with current politics, mainly because, at best, it doesn’t really interest me and at worse the greed and stupidity depress me. That’s why I found out by chance that in March we’ll be having municipal elections. Since I do think it’s important to vote (even if it’s only to have the right to complain), I’ll have to take a good look at the myriad political parties and figure out who I can vote for.

In Costa Rica, there having presidential elections next month. The local bishops have released a statement to all Catholics in the country and told them to not leave their faith at the door of the poll booth. Elections are elections and Catholics are Catholics, so regardless of the origin, this statement also contains some good advice for Dutch voters. Some excerpts from the text, the original of which may be found here, in Spanish. Emphases mine.

“Before [the elections] the bishops want to recall the moral obligation to participate in the election.”

“In our Pastoral Exhortation Roads toward an authentic democracy, we affirmed that politics are a noble activity when it is geared towards the paths of justice, respect for human life, marriage, the family, religious freedom and the search for the common good.

“As Pope Benedict XVI says: “The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics” [Deus caritas est, 28].”

“We remind people who confess to the faith in Christ, especially the Catholic Christians, that our identity of disciples is not marginal and diluted in the exercise of our citizenship, and that the Christian faith has unavoidable implications in the field of political morality and public life.

“We ask all people of good will to analyze ahead of time and to attentively discern, guided by reason and ethics, the proposals set forth by candidates, in order to cast a vote that is responsible and reasoned.”

“We ask God for the gift of divine wisdom for our future rulers, with the words of the king Solomon:  “So give your servant a heart to understand how to govern your people, how to discern between good and evil” [1 Kings 3,9].

“At this time in our history, we invite the entire People of God to invoke the help of the Lord and the maternal protection of Our Lady of the Angels, so that we may once again feel her intercessory presence and she may guide us to strengthen our democracy in peace, justice and freedom.”

Cardinals, a game of numbers

A flock of cardinals

I’ve been reading up a bit on the possibility for a consistory sometime this year. A consistory is a meeting of the College of Cardinals and the pope where new members are elevated to the cardinalate. The reason that one may be called this year is the relatively large number of cardinals to reach the age of 80 this and next year. Once they reach that age they can no longer participate in a conclave to elect a new pope. In 2010, 11 cardinals will turn 80 (one of them, Cardinal Ambrozic of Toronto, today actually), followed by 9 more in 2011 (among them the only Dutch cardinal, Cardinal Simonis).

This’ll bring down the number of electors to 92 at the end of 2011, unless a consistory is called before that. And that seems very likely, not least because it is more than two years since the last one. The identity of the new cardinals is anyone’s guess, but perhaps an indication may be found by taking a look at where the future octogenarians are from.

Hardest hit will be New Zealand, Lebanon, Cameroon, Latvia and the Netherlands, who will lose all their electors. Who will take their place?

  • In New Zealand, the see of Wellington has usually been occupied by a cardinal, so Archbishop John Atcherley Dew could be up for elevation there.
  • In Cameroon, any of the five archbishops seems likely. The country has a short history when it comes to cardinals, but looking at the diocesan connections of current Cardinal Tumi and the time in office of the other archbishops, we may see either Simon-Victor Tonyé-Bakot of Yaoundé or Antoine Ntalou of Garoua.
  • For the Netherlands there is really only one likely candidate, and that is Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht. Recent archbishops of Utrecht have all eventually been elevated to the cardinalate, but the relatively short time in office of Archbishop Eijk may be reason to wait for a future consistory.
  • As for Latvia and Lebanon, any guess is as good as the next. Latvian Cardinal Janis Pujats is still active as archbishop of Riga and has no clear successor yet, and in Lebanon the mix of various brands of Catholicism with their respective patriarchs and bishops offers a number of options.

In Asia, the Philippines and South Korea will lose half their electors.

  • With 16 archbishops, there are numerous options in the Philippines. Cebu Archbishop Vidal will turn 80 but is still active, and he has two auxiliaries, one of whom may succeed him.
  • The same goes for South Korean Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk, who is still working as archbishop of Seoul. The country only has three archbishops, so the choices are more limited. Daegu is currently vacant, so maybe Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju will be elevated.

Canada, France and Spain will each lose one-third of their electors, and Italy and the United States a little more than one-fifth. Any guess is as good as any with this approach, due to the sheer size and Catholic population of the countries.

Why is it important to keep the number of cardinals somewhat steady? Well, perhaps to maintain a relative decent representation of the world Church. That is the reason why, over the course of the past centuries, the maximum size of the College has been increased to 120 now (which is a relatively loose limit anyway). Small Church provinces, like the Netherlands, may be represented by a single cardinal, larger countries by more. The title of cardinal – it’s not an ordination or consecration –  is also given as a sign of office: high members of the curia in Rome may be elevated, or bishops of important dioceses. In fact, the title of cardinal is not limited to bishops, although in practice it usually is. When a priest is elevated to the cardinalate, he is usually also consecrated to bishop.