As canon law dictates that a bishop is to offer his resignation when he reaches the age of 75, new bishops rarely get consecrated beyond the age of, say, 65. A look at the past month, just to get a sampling, shows that this is generally true: the youngest four of the most recently consecrated bishops were 51, while the oldest was 69. All the others fall in between those ages.
Today, however, will see the consecration of an 80-year-old bishop. But he is not set to lead a diocese or take on some important office in the curia or a diplomatic post somewhere. No, Archbishop Aquilino Bocos Merino is being made a bishop so that he can receive the cardinal’s red hat in 12 days’ time.
Canon 351 § 1 describes who can be chosen to be made cardinals, adding that “those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal consecration.” Cardinal-elect Bocos Merino is a priest of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, generally known as the Claretians, and served as that order’s superior general from 1991 to 2003. That office, however, does not entail that the holder being made a bishop. But a cardinal must be one. Hence today’s consecration of an 80-year-old.
The consecration of Archbishop Bocos Merino will take place in Madrid, Spain, with Fernando Cardinal Sebastián Aguilar, archbishop emeritus of Pamplona y Tudela, as principal consecrator, and Carlos Cardinal Osoro Sierra, archbishop of Madrid, and Ricardo Cardinal Blázquez Pérez, archbishop of Valladolid, as co-consecrators. All three cardinals were also created by Pope Francis.
Archbishop Bocos Merino has been appointed the titular archbishop of Urusi (because a bishop has to be a bishop of a place), a title he will hold for a mere twelve days. In the consistory of 28 June he will be given a deaconry title to go with his cardinal’s red hat. There are currently twelve of these vacant, but Pope Francis may decide to elevate another Roman church to the dignity of cardinal deaconry. He has done so before.
But, despite all of the above, a newly chosen cardinal who is not yet a bishop can simply ask the pope to dispense him from the obligation of being made a bishop first. Such a request is usually granted. Most recently, Cardinal Ernest Simoni, created in the consistory of 19 November 2016, did so.