With apologies for being late, Pope Benedict announces 22 new cardinals

After a busy morning in which he consecrated Archbishops Charles Brown and Marek Solczyński during today’s Epiphany Mass, the Holy Father appeared a bit later than usual for his noon Angelus address. He quickly moved to the big event that was already causing a considerable buzz among Catholics – journalists and otherwise – on Twitter: the announcement of a consistory on 18 February in which no less than 22 new cardinals – among them 18 electors – will be created.

Soon swapping the purple for red, Archbishop Eijk will be in need of a new official portrait

There are a few big names in the list, but standing out for us here in the Netherlands is that of Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk. Three years after his arrival in Utrecht, he will become the metropolitan see’s fifth cardinal in a row. Turning 59 in June, Cardinal-designate Eijk will be able to participate in at least two conclaves, I would think (unless the sucessor of Pope Benedict will pull a JPII and remain on the seat of St. Peter for 20 years or more).

The selection of Archbishop Eijk was not unexpected. His name was already mentioned in the run-up to the November 2010 consistory, but the 80th birthday of Cardinal Simonis, the only Dutch elector, cleared the way for Eijk to succeed him in the College of Cardinals. With the title of cardinal comes, of course, a title church in Rome and a whole bag of expectations. And certainly the local media, which has been seeing the Church and the archbishop in the light of the abuse crisis, will be asking a whole heap of questions about Eijk’s suitability for the red hat. But these are questions being asked too late. A candidate’s suitability as cardinal flows from his suitability as bishop or priest. Added to that is the issue of the College of Cardinals reflecting the world Church and the importance of a see or curial position reflected in a cardinal title. The Archdiocese of Utrecht under the guidance of Archbishop Eijk is, in the mind of the pope and most likely also in light of the future, deserving of a cardinal at the helm.

Here is the full list of future cardinals:

  • Fernando Filoni, 65, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People
  • João Bráz de Aviz, 64, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Manuel Monteiro de Castro, 73, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary (only appointed as such yesterday!)
  • Giuseppe Bertello, 69, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State
  • Domenico Calcagno, 69, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of theApostolic See
  • Giuseppe Versaldi, 68, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
  • Santos Abril y Castelló, 76, Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
  • Edwin Frederick O’Brien, 72, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
  • Antonio Maria Vegliò, 74, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
  • Francesco Coccopalmerio, 73, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
  • Giuseppe Betori, 65, Archbishop of Firenze
  • George Alencherry, 66, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly
  • Thomas Christopher Collins, 65, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Willem Jacobus Eijk, 58, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • John Tong Hon, 72, Bishop of Hong Kong
  • Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, Archbishop of Berlin (the youngest member of the College of Cardinals)
  • Timothy Michael Dolan, 62, Archbishop of New York
  • Dominik Jaroslav Duka, 68, Archbishop of Prague
  • Prosper Grech, 86, Priest of the Order of St. Augustine
  • Karl Josef Becker, 83, Priest of the Society of Jesus
  • Lucian Muresan, 80, Major Archbishop of Fagaras si Alba Iulia (Romanian)
  • Julien Ries, 91, Priest of Namur, Belgium

This consistory is a fairly Italian affair. With 7 new cardinals, Italy easily overtakes the United States and Germany, which each gain two cardinals (Dolan and O’Brien; Woelki and Becker), Brazil (Bráz de Aviz), Portugal (Monteiro de Castro), Spain (Abril y Castelló), India (Alencherry), Canada (Collins), the Netherlands (Eijk), China (Tong Hon), the Czech Republic (Duka), Malta (Grech), Romania (Muresan) and Belgium (Ries) each have one new cardinal.

Four of the cardinal-designates: Filoni, Ries, Woelki and Duka

Red Dawn Epiphany?

And so the rumour mill sputters to life this Epiphany morning. At the month of this writing, Pope Benedict XVI is offering the consecration Mass of two new archbishops who will be sent out as Papal Nuncios (among them the new Nuncio to Ireland), but if those in the know (such as the usually well-informed Andrea Tornielli and Rocco Palmo) are right, the Holy Father will announce the names of some 15 new cardinals during noon’s Angelus. An expected date of 19 February for a consistory has long been taken as fact, but the announcement  was not expected until almost two weeks from now.

Among the rumoured names are a number of curial prelates and archbishop ordinaries who were also on the list for the previous consistories of November 2010. One of these is our own Archbishop Wim Eijk. There are currently no Dutch cardinal electors, so based on that alone his elevation seems a matter of time. Still, we’ll know more at noon. I guess there will be much to blog about.

In the meantime, let’s not forget the reason for the day of Epiphany: God revealed His incarnation to the world, showing us all the path we must go to our salvation. May the new cardinals help steer the ship of the Church on that narrow and often stormy path.