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With yesterday’s passing of John Cardinal Foley, Grand Master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the number of cardinals able to vote in a conclave (ie. those under 80) has dropped to 109. A consistory creating new cardinals sometime in 2012 seems increasingly likely, especially considering the fact that in that year another 13 cardinals* will become octogenarians, bringing the number of electors down to 96, the lowest it’s been since, as far as I can gather, 2001. In the recent history of the college, whenever the number drops below 100, consistories would usually follow fairly soon after.
Not that numbers are magical or in any way legally binding. The maximum number of cardinal electors is set at 120, although popes are free to create more than that or raise or lower that limit. Blessed John Paul II has done the former several times, for example. Although numbers do play a role, cardinals are not created to fill up the roster, so to speak. But we can use the numbers as indicators. Next year, as the forces of old age bring the number lower and lower, Pope Benedict XVI may wish to look towards the future and prepare for the election of his successor. Obviously, he can do so by deciding who receives the red hat.
The buzz these days is that a consistory may be scheduled for the end of the new year, much like the last one, which took place at the end of November of 2010.
Lastly, as for the likely cardinalibile, much is guesswork.Two reasonably likely candidates in these parts of the world, however, are Archbishops Wim Eijk of Utrecht and Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Their respective predecessors (Cardinals Simonis and Murphy-O’Connor) have recently turned 80 or will do so in 2012. Since Pope Benedict has an unofficial policy of not appointing new cardinals in areas with an existing cardinal below 80, these archbishops now run a fair chance at the red hat.
Photo credit: AP Photo
*These, emeriti all, are: José Card. Saraiva Martins (Congr. Causes of Saints), Joseph Card. Zen Ze-kiun (Hong Kong), Rodolfo Card. Quezada Toruño (Guatemala), Edward Card. Egan (New York), Miloslav Card. Vlk (Prague), Henri Card. Schwery (Sion), James Card. Stafford (Denver, Apostolic Penitentiary), Gaudencio Card. Rosales (Manila), Cormac Card. Murphy-O’Connor (Westminster), Pedro Card. Rubiano Sáenz (Bogotá), Francis Card. Arinze (Onitsha, Congr. Divine Worship & Discipline Sacraments), Renato Card. Martino (Pont. Council Justice & Peace) and Eusébio Card. Scheid (Rio de Janeiro).
I came across a pretty nice-looking website that heralds the publication of an extensive biography of a forgotten Catholic great: Willem Marinus Cardinal van Rossum (1854-1932). Born a year after the Catholic hierarchy was re-established in the Netherlands, his career coincided with the period we now call the ‘rich Roman life’ (Rijke Roomsche Leven), when Catholics took full advantage of their newfound freedom to form all kinds of Catholic associations, unions and other clubs, to organise processions (if only below the great rivers) and take their devotions out of centuries of secrecy and hiding.
Cardinal van Rossum, then, was one that Dutch Catholics took pride in. His return to the Netherlands in 1924, as the papal legate to the Eucharistic Congress of Amsterdam, was basically the next best thing to the pope himself visiting. And his career was impressive in any case. In 1911, he was the first Dutch priest to be created a cardinal since the Reformation. He wasn’t a bishop then yet (something that is customary today, but less so in the past), but was appointed as President of the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1914, and two years later also as Major Penitentiary. In 1918 he also became Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (the current Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples), and his consecration to bishop followed in that same year. There’s a fuller list of his various duties on the biography page on the website I linked to above.
The titular churches he held (first as Cardinal-deacon and later as Cardinal-priest) were suitably high profile. From 1911 to 1915 he held the S. Cesareo in Palatio, which was later held by Blessed Karol Wojtyła, for one. From 1915 until his death in 1932, the cardinal was cardinal-priest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme (right), which before him was held by two later popes (Innocent VII and Benedict XIV) and today by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the emeritus archbishop of Prague.
As bishop he was the titular archbishop of Caesarea in Mauretania (there it is again), later held by to name but two, my own Bishop Gerard de Korte and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller.
Willem Cardinal van Rossum, because of his pioneering role for the rejuvenated Dutch Church, is deserving of a proper biography, and judging by the website above, this could be it.
Photo credit:  incaelo.wordpress.com,  Anthony Majanlahti/Wikipedia