On Ascension Day, Willem Cardinal Eijk will officially take possession of his title church in Rome. This rather official wording essentially means that the cardinal will be taking his place among the cardinals of the Church. Like a bishop, a cardinal is always a cardinal somewhere, and while Cardinal Eijk is the archbishop of Utrecht, his title also has a location to go with it. At last February’s consistory, Cardinal Eijk was given the title church of San Callisto, a small church in Trastevere in Rome.
The Code of Canon Law has this to say about cardinals and their title churches:
Can. 357 §1: When a Cardinal has taken possession of a suburbicarian Church or of a titular Church in Rome, he is to further the good of the diocese or church by counsel and patronage. However, he has no power of governance over it, and he should not for any reason interfere in matters concerning the administration of its goods, or its discipline, or the service of the church.
There is, then, a small practical consequence to having a title church: while a cardinal does not have anything to say about how his title church is run, he is obliged to offer his counsel and patronage to those responsible for the church. In the case of San Callisto, it seems that the parochial vicar of Santa Maria in Trastevere is in charge, although the church is normally closed for daily use. It is still consecrated, so there is at least one Mass per year.
I’ll keep an eye out for any speeches or homilies that will appear on the day.