A consistory for the history books

It was anything but a regular consistory this morning. Not only Francis’ first, but also one coloured, as Holy See communications advisor Greg Burke put it on Twitter, “lots of red with a bit of white”. Seated next to the cardinal bishops was the humble figure of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, back in St. Peter’s for the first time since Ash Wednesday of last year. His presence gave us the unique sight of a Pope watching his own successor creating cardinals. We can safely say that that has never happened before. Pope Benedict was warmly welcomed back to the basilica behind which he spends his days. Pope Francis made sure that his first greeting was to his predecessor, and later words of welcome by Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin were followed by applause. And although those in attendance were asked not to applaud upon the entrance of Pope Francis, no one minded this one bit.

francis benedict consistory

As expected, the rite of the ceremony was unchanged from the previous two, although there were unique accents. The absence of Cardinal Capovilla, and Pope Francis descending from his place in front of the altar to grant biretta, ring and bull to wheelchair-bound Cardinal Kutwa, are but two examples.

In the meantime, I have updated the list of cardinals on this blog. The new cardinals join the rest of the College at the bottom of the list, as far as precedence is concerned.

And finally, some photos that I came across:

parolin consistory

As the first name on the list, Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State, addresses the Pope on behalf of the other new cardinals.

francis parolinPope Francis waves to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to acknowledge and thank him for his presence.

francis ouédraogoPope Francis with Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo

cardinals consistory

New and old cardinals greet and congratulate each other.

brenes solorzano benedictCardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solórzano embraces Pope Benedict

Cardinal day – the facts and what they mean

conistoryAnd so, here it is, the first red dawn of Francis’ pontificate, increasing the College of Cardinals to 218 members, with 122 on active duty. The batch of new cardinals (pictured at left, during yesterday’s proceedings) has widely been reported as a conscious break away from the west. Although there still are eight prelates from Europe or North America (including five Italians), they are not a  majority. Among them, we find only the second cardinal from Nicaragua (Brenes Solórzano) and Burkina Faso (Ouédraogo), and the very first from Saint Lucia (and the lesser Caribbean as a whole) (Felix) and Haïti (Langlois). They are all archbishops, with the sole exception of Cardinal-designate Chibly Langlois, who has been a bishop for less then ten years.

Age-wise, there are also some interesting shifts. Not only has Pope Francis chosen to create the oldest cardinal at the time of creation (and at this moment the oldest member of the College at large), 98-year-old Loris Capovilla, but also a  few of the youngest. While 54-year-old Cardinal Baselios Thottunkal remains the youngest member, he is followed by two new cardinals: 55-year-old Chibly Langlois and 56-year-old Gérald Lacroix. At number 6 of the youngest cardinals is the highest ranking member of the latest batch: 59-year-old Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the youngest in this function since Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, in 1930.

After today the College of Cardinals will have 2 members created by Pope Paul VI, 116 by Blessed Pope John Paul II, 81 by Pope Benedict XVI and 19 by Pope Francis. It is still dominated by the appointments of one of the longest-reigning Popes, but this is a status quo this will change fairly rapidly over the coming years. Only 39 of the cardinals created by John Paul II are still under the age of 80, which equals to about 34%. Of the ‘Benedictine’ cardinals, 75 remain active, which is some 93%. Of Francis’  appointments, 84% will be under the age of, so in a sense this is all relative. But it does point out the slow but sure change happening in the composition of the College of Cardinals.

Today’s consistory should be seen in the greater context of Pope Francis intended and gradual overhaul of the institution of the Church. Loving pastoral care in the field must have first place over managerial concerns. Today’s new cardinals, especially once they’ve taken their place in the Curia, are chosen with that in mind.