Consistory dawning – Amid controversy, one cardinal-to-be stays at home

collegeofcardinalsTomorrow, Pope Francis will create his fourth batch of cardinals. A small group of five this time (the smallest since Blessed Paul VI’s creation of four cardinals in 1977), but one unique in its variety, both in the places the new cardinals call home and in their hierarchical positions among the world’s bishops: One is an archbishop of a major metropolitan see, the other an auxiliary bishop; one runs a diocese covering an entire country, the other a sparsely-populated stretch of mountains and jungle, while another resides in a mostly Muslim society.

Jean_ZerboThis consistory, like others before it, comes with its own developments. This time, it is Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, who is at the centre of attention. Yesterday, the news broke that he will skip tomorrow’s ceremony because of health reasons, it is claimed. A valid reason for a 73-year-old man, certainly, but one made all the more interesting by the recent discovery of several Swiss bank accounts in the name of the bishops’ conference of Mali, totalling some 12 million euros in 2007. The bishops deny any misappropriation and claim full transparency about the existence of this extensive funds. Regardless of this, questions remain about the origin and purpose of this money, as journalist Marco Politi outlines, and Archbishop Zerbo, being one of three men with access to these accounts, is the subject of scrutiny, especially now that he is to be a cardinal.

Archbishop Zerbo’s absence from the consistory also influences the ceremony. Being the first-named among the new cardinals, it was his task to address a few words of gratitude to the Pope on behalf of himself and the other cardinals. It would be logical to assume that this now falls to the second name on the list, that of Archbishop Juan Omella Omella of Barcelona.

All in all, the consistory will be an intimate affair, with the four cardinals-elect, Juan Omella Omella, Anders Arborelius, Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun and Gregorio Rosa Chavéz, seated before the Holy Father, dressed in the cardinal red that signifies the servitude unto death as described by Jesus to his disciples in the reading from the Gospel of Mark, always used in consistories: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:43-45)

palliumOn Thursday, the traditional first Mass of the new cardinals with the Pope will be combined with the Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, after which the pallia for the past year’s new metropolitan archbishops will be distributed. Under Pope Francis’ new rules, the actual imposition of the pallia will take place in the archbishops home dioceses. It is not mandatory for the new archbishops to attend and collect their pallia themselves, but it is expected that most of this year’s 34 will do so.

EDIT: Yesterday, it was revealed that Cardinal-designate Jean Zerbo will attend the consistory, having recovered enough from a stomach ailment that would have prevented his travelling to Rome.

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Surprise consistory – Pope Francis calls in five new cardinals from the periphery

Out of the blue, Pope Francis today announced that he will be creating five new cardinals on 28 June. What is not surprising is that the new red hats will, for the most part, go to the peripheries of the world. The only new cardinal who was a likely is the archbishop of Barcelona, Spain. The others reside, in Mali, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador.

zerbo_340759573Archbishop Jean Zerbo, 73, is the archbishop of Bamako, Mali. Although that see has been an archdiocese since 1955, it has never had a cardinal. Cardinal-designate Zerbo was auxiliary bishop of Bamako from 1988 to 1994, Bishop of Mopti from 1994 to 1998, and archbishop of Bamako since then. He has been a clear voice for aid to people suffering from war and terror in Mali and other countries in the southern Sahara.

Mons._Omella_(30279523624)Archbishop Juan José Omella, 71, is the arcbishop of Barcelona in Spain. He will be the fourth successive archbishop of that city to become a cardinal. Cardinal-designate Omella was auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza from 1996 to 1999, bishop of Barbastro-Monzón from 1999 to 2004, bishop of Calahorra y La Calzada-Logroño from 2004 to 2015, and archbishop of Barcelona since then.

anders+arborelius+ruotsi+katolinen+kirkkoBishop Anders Arborelius, 67, is the bishop of Stockholm, Sweden. He wil be the first Swedish cardinal, and the first from Scandinavia as a whole. Cardinjal-designate Arborelius has been the bishop of Stockholm since 1998. His appointment is undoubtedly related to Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden in 2016, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, during which Bishop Arborelius was one of the Pope’s hosts.

2008-10-25 Synod 14Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, 73, is the vicar apostolic of Pakse, and currently also the apostolic administrator of Vientiane, both in Laos. He will the first Laotian cardinal. He has served as vicar apostolic of Pakse since 2000. Bishop Mangkhanekhoun visited Rome with the other bishops from Laos on an Ad Limina visit in January, during which the idea to create a cardinal from that country may have come to the Pope.

MonsrosachavezBishop Gregorio Rosa Chavéz, 74, is auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. He will the only, and perhaps also first, auxiliary bishop to be made a cardinal, as well as El Salvador’s first and only cardinal. He has been auxiliary bishop of the Salvadorian capital since 1982, appointed shortly after the martyrdom of Blessed Archbishop Romero.

All five new cardinals will be cardinal priests as well as cardinal electors. The total number of cardinals will be 227 on 28 June, with 121 of them able to participate in a conclave. This will be Pope Francis’ fourth consistory, in which he has created 60 cardinals.

It has been speculated that Pope Francis would be willing to raise the maximum number of cardinal electors beyond the current 120. While he has exceeded that now by 1, it appears more as if he wants to keep the cardinal electors at 120 or thereabouts as long as possible. Hence the small consistory now (the previous consistory of similar size was Benedict XVI’s last, in 2012, in which he created six cardinals). The Holy Father could have waited until June of 2018, when a further seven cardinals would have aged out, and created 12 or 13 cardinals them, but he is clearly unwilling to wait that long.