(Note: This post has been edited after publication to correct some information about the office of Cardinal Protodeacon).
Just like he did almost exactly two years ago, Pope Francis promoted four Cardinal Deacons to the rank of Cardinal Priests. This is a right that cardinal have ten years after their creation, and while it does not mean any change in their rights and duties, it is a change in their position among their brother cardinals. Whereas the cardinal deacons rank below the cardinal priests, the newly promoted cardinals now take their place among those cardinals priests created in the same consistory as they were, according to the order in which they were announced.
This time around, four of the five cardinal deacons created in Pope Benedict XVI´s first consistory are elevated. The fifth, Agostino Vallini, was already promoted in 2009, following his appointment as vicar general for Rome a few months before.
The new cardinal deacons all keep their titular deaconries, the churches in Rome which they ceremonially head to reflect their basis in the clergy of Rome, which now become cardinal titles for the duration of the cardinals’ lives. The promoted cardinals, retired all, are William Cardinal Levada, Archbishop emeritus of San Francisco and Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Franc Cardinal Rode, Archbishop emeritus of Ljubljana and Prefect emeritus of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Andrea Cardinal Cordero Lanza Di Montezemolo, Archpriest emeritus of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls; and Albert Cardinal Vanhoye, Secretary emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
There are no practical changes that come out of these promotions. It is interesting to see that, although cardinal deacons are habitually promoted ten years after their creation (the most senior “class” now being that of November 2007), one cardinal deacon remains behind. He is Cardinal Renato Martino, created in Saint John Paul II’s last conclave of October 2003. He is the most senior cardinal deacon and is thus the cardinal protodeacon. His most visible duty is the Habemus Papam following the election of a new Pope. In the past I had suggested that this is a duty only open to cardinal electors, but I was recently corrected about this. Cardinal Martino would be free to pass on this duty to the next senior cardinal deacon if he is, for whatever reason, not up to it (he is 83, after all). The next cardinal deacon in line in 72-year-old Leonardi Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.