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The cardinals have wrapped up their final General Congregation and we are now only one day away from the big event. And to think that only one month ago Pope Benedict surprised us all with his announcement that he would abdicate. It’s been quite the ride.

Now to look forward to the coming days. In his blog - a companion piece to that great resource GCatholic.com – Gabriel Chow presents the main events of the conclave. Apart from tomorrow, a typical conclave day will consist of four voting rounds – the “scrutinies” or ballots.

domus sanctae marthaeTomorrow, the first day of the conclave, is taken up by several preparatory events. In the early morning the cardinals will move from their current lodgings all over Rome to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they will live throughout the conclave. Rooms were assigned by lot. At left a view of the simple suites available to the cardinals.

At 10am tomorrow, the cardinals, electors and non-electors alike, will offer a Mass “Pro eligendo Romano Pontifice”, or for the election of the Roman Pontiff. The Dean of the College, Angelo Cardinal Sodano will give the homily and the Mass will be chiefly in Italian. The booklet for the celebration is available here.

sistine chapelTomorrow afternoon, the cardinals will head to the Pauline chapel in the Apostolic palace. At 4:30pm, they will walk to the Sistine Chapel, where they will all take the oath and the first round of voting will take place. The cardinals will be seated according to precedence, as they have during the General Congregations, but they will enter the Sistine Chapel in reverse order. This means that James Cardinal Harvey, the junior Cardinal Deacon will be first, and Giovanni Cardinal Re will close the line. Dutch Cardinal Wim Eijk will be fairly forward in the line, after the 30 Cardinal-Deacons and 8 Cardinal-Priests that come after him in precedence. Immediately preceding and following him are Cardinals Betori and Duka. At right, a photo of workmen readying the Sistine Chapel for the conclave.

 The long form of the oath, as presented below, will be recited by all cardinals together. Each cardinal will then come forward and, with his hand on the Gospels, confirm the oath.

“We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

“And I, N. Cardinal N., do so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.”

Unlike I mentioned before, the “extra omnes!” will then be called by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, and the doors be closed. Only then, will Cardinal Grech address the cardinals “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church”.

The first vote can then take place, although this is optional. The first ballot may be postponed to Wednesday. It is expected that the cardinal will pray Vespers together at 7 and return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae half an hour later.

We will most likely see the first puff of smoke – if there has been a vote – from the chimney at 8pm, and no one expects it to be anything else than black.

Part of the events, such as the Mass, the walk to the Sistine Chapel and the chimney smoke can be viewed live via the Vatican player. I will share any other means of watching the proceedings via Twitter as they become available.

Photo credit: [1] Fr. Tim Finigan, [2] Vatican Radio

Maltese cardinal Prosper Grech receivesJust before Msgr. Guido Marini sends everyone who is not a cardinal elector out of the Sistine Chapel, on the first day of the conclave, the assembled cardinals will hear a sermon by a prelate who is specifically selected for the job. For this edition of the papal election the choice has fallen on Prosper Cardinal Grech, the 87-year-old expert in Patristics, who was created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in February 2012.

He himself is not an elector, so he will leave the Chapel after he has finished his preaching, but just like the fact that the over-80 cardinals participate in the General Congregations, this is an expression of the fact that the older members of the College of Cardinals certainly retain their influence and responsibility, even if they no longer have the duty to cast a vote.

Cardinal Grech is an Augustinian friar from Malta who specialises in studies of the Bible, hermeneutics and Patristics. He has an interesting connection with previous conclaves: he heard the confession of Cardinal Montini shortly before the latter became Pope Paul VI in 1963.

Depending on the length of the conclave, the cardinals will also hear addresses by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran after three voting days, Cardinal Godfried Danneels after another seven ballots, and Cardinal Giovanni Re after yet another seven ballots have gone by without a result. These three cardinals are the senior Cardinal Deacon, Cardinal Priest and Cardinal Bishop respectively.

Photo credit: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Sometimes someone gets appointed to a responsible role for reasons which are not entirely clear. Yesterday that happened in the Church. Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, Promotor of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as such the Holy See’s point man in the fight against sexual abuse is appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Malta.

Bishop elect Scicluna has little against him that would bar him from such an appointment. On the contrary. In recent years, he has shown himself as the strongest voice for the victims in the Vatican. It was he who ruffled Curial feathers at the first congress on sexual abuse supported by the Vatican, and he is widely seen as the force behind the stricter regulations that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith now enforces for clergy guilty of sexual abuse of minors. He also personally intervened in his native Malta on behalf of three victims, pushing their cases through court and bishops’ tribunal after a decade of silence.

Why, then, is this strong force for justice, the diminutive cleric’s driving force, as testified by many who encountered him, being moved out of the Holy See? I would think he could still do much good there.

Certainly, there could be myriad reasons for this appointment. Maybe Msgr. Scicluna himself desired a new job closer to home, so to speak. Perhaps Malta’s Archbishop Paul Cremona, who has recently been dealing with fatigue-related heath issues, requested a strong and pastoral auxiliary bishop. Msgr. Scuicluna’s predecessor, Bishop Annetto Depasquale, passed away in 2011. But on the other hand, can we really say that he hasn’t made more enemies in the Curia than was good for him? I am wary from seeing too many conspiracies anywhere, but there were some who did not appreciate Msgr. Scicluna’s drive for justice being doing at any cost.

Whatever the case may be, it is good news for Malta. The new bishop is scheduled to be consecrated on 24 November, with Archbishop Cremona, obviously, as the chief consecrator. As titular see, Bishop elect Scicluna has received San Leone, ost recenly held by another Maltese cleric, Cardinal Prosper Grech, in the few weeks between his consecrated as bishop and creation as cardinal.

In a side note, there are those who see this appointment as the appointment of the new archbishop of Malta, the successor of Msgr. Cremona, and it seems likely that Msgr. Scicluna still has an illustrious career ahead of him.

In the run-up to the previous consistory, we’ve heard often that one of the duties of cardinals is to aid the pope in all manner of Church-related affairs. Exactly how that takes shape became clear yesterday, as the new cardinals have been appointed to seats on various congregations, tribunals, councils and committees. Here follows a list of the dicasteries and the new cardinals that were assigned to them.

  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinals Alencherry, Filoni and Coccopalmerio
  • Congregation for the Oriental Churches: Cardinals Alencherry, Dolan, Muresan, Filoni and O’Brien
  • Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro and Abril y Castelló
  • Congregation for Bishops: Cardinals Monteiro de Castro, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Versaldi
  • Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples: Cardinals Tong Hon, Abril y Castelló, Bertello and Calcagno
  • Congregation for the Clergy: Cardinals Eijk and Braz de Aviz
  • Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Cardinals Duka and Versaldi
  • Congregation for Education: Cardinals Collins, Eijk, Betori, Woelki, Filoni, Braz de Aviz and O’Brien
  • Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: Cardinals Coccopalmerio and Versaldi
  • Pontifical Council for the Laity: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Cardinals Woelki and Coccopalmerio
  • Pontifical Council for the Family: Cardinal Vegliò
  • Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Cardinals Duka and Bertello
  • Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”: Cardinal O’Brien
  • Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: Cardinal Monteiro de Castro
  • Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers: Cardinal Calcagno
  • Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: Cardinal Tong Hon
  • Pontifical Council for Culture: Cardinal Betori
  • Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinals Collins and Dolan
  • Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation: Cardinal Dolan
  • Pontifical Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses: Cardinal Braz de Aviz

Both new to the Congregation for Education: Cardinals Thomas Collins and Wim Eijk

All the Church’s cardinals under the age of 80 (and some over 80) have one or more functions within the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This is in addition to their regular duties as diocesan bishops or curial prelates. In practice it means that they’ll have to be in Rome a bit more often than before.

Our own Cardinal Eijk has been appointed to the Congregations for Clergy (responsible for all secular priests and deacons) and Education (seminaries and Catholic schools). He will than be in Rome for up to four times a year, as these dicasteries meet. Cardinal Eijk will not be needed in Rome for the day-to-day affairs of the Congregations and, even then, he will of course be able to do a significant amount of work from Utrecht.

These appointments form one of two steps that fully integrate new cardinals into the curia. The other step is the official taking possession of their title churches. This can take some time, sometimes up to a year after the consistory in which a cardinal was created.  Of the latest batch, only Cardinals Filoni and Grech have done so. Cardinals Becker, Monteiro de Castro and Tong Hon will take possession of their churches today, and Cardinal Coccopalmerio will follow on Thursday. The dates for the other cardinals are not yet known.

Photo credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Cardinal Eijk holding the bull of his assigned title church

Last week, I tried to predict which title churches and deaconries the new cardinals would be getting. While much was guesswork, I did succeed in making a few reasonable guesses: Sant’ Atanasio might go to Cardinal Muresan or Cardinal Alencherry; Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario to Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal Collins; San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello to Cardinal Eijk; San Bernardo alle Terme to Cardinal Alencherry; San Giuseppe all’ Aurelio to Cardinal Woelki; San Gerardo Maiella to Cardinal Duka; Santissimo Redentore e Sant’ Alfonso in Via Merulana to Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal Collins; Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio to Cardinal Ries. I also suggested to San Patrizio would remain vacant and that San Teodoro would go to a cardinal with some link with the Orthodox Churches.

Well, in the end I guessed right three times: Cardinal Allencherry did get San Bernardo alle Terme, Cardinal Dolan got Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario, Cardinal Muresan got Sant’ Atanasio.

Here is the full list of new cardinals with their title churches and deaconries

  • Fernando Cardinal Filoni, Cardinal-deacon of Nostra Signora di Coromoto in San Giovanni di Dio
  • Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, Cardinal-deacon of San Domenico di Guzman
  • Santos Cardinal Abril y Castellò, Cardinal-deacon of San Ponziano
  • Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò, Cardinal-deacon of San Cesareo in Palatio
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello, Cardinal-deacon of Santi Vito, Modesto e Crescenzia
  • Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, Cardinal-deacon of San Giuseppe del Falegnami
  • João Cardinal Bráz de Aviz, Cardinal-deacon of Sant’ Elena fuori Porta Prenestina
  • Edwin Frederick Cardinal O’Brien, Cardinal-deacon of San Sebastiano al Palatino
  • Domenico Cardinal Calcagno, Cardinal-deacon of Santissima Annunciazione della Beata Vergine Maria a Via Ardeatina
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Versaldi, Cardinal-deacon of Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio
  • George Cardinal Alencherry, Cardinal-priest of San Bernardo alle Terme
  • Thomas Christopher Cardinal Collins, Cardinal-priest of San Patrizio
  • Dominik Cardinal Duka, Cardinal-priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro
  • Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Cardinal-priest of San Callisto
  • Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Cardinal-priest of San Marcello
  • Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal-priest of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario
  • Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki, Cardinal-priest of San Giovanni Maria Vianney
  • John Cardinal Tong Hon, Cardinal-priest of Regina Apostolorum
  • Lucian Cardinal Muresan, Cardinal-priest of Sant’ Atanasio
  • Julien Cardinal Ries, Cardinal-deacon of San Antonio de Padova a Circonvallazione Appia
  • Prosper Cardinal Grech, Cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria Goretti
  • Karl Josef Cardinal Becker, Cardinal-deacon of San Giuliano Martire

San Callisto

As you will have noticed when comparing this list to the one in my previous post, there are five new deaconries and one new title church on the list. The Holy Father is free to create and abolish such churches as he sees fit, of course, but it’s interesting to wonder why some titles remain vacant as new ones are created.

Cardinal Eijk’s title church is San Callisto, located in Trastevere. The church itself dates from the 17th century, although there has been a church dedicated to Saint Pope Callistus I since the 8th century. The holy pope himself reigned in the 3rd century and was martyred and buried on the site where his church now stands. As cardinal-priest of this church, Cardinal Eijk succeeds Corrado Cardinal Ursi, the former archbishop of Naples who died in 2003. The later Popes Pius VII (pope from 1800 to 1823) and Gregory XVI (1831 to 1846) also held this title church.

It is a fairly small church, as Roman churches go, with a single aisle and chapels on either side.

In essence, a cardinal will have little to do with his title church or deaconry, although some are tasked with the financial upkeep of their assigned church or deaconry. All such churches, though, will prominently feature the coat of arms of their cardinal-protector on the facade.


It was a pretty speedy ceremony that expanded the Church’s College of Cardinals to 213, with 125 of them being electors. One of them, of course, being Cardinal Wim Eijk (I’ll have to start using another tag in posts about him from now on). Upon watching the live stream of the creation of the 22 new cardinals, few things stood out, such as the visible emotion on the face of Cardinal Prosper Grech’s he came forward to receive the biretta and the lengthy conversation that Cardinal John Tong Hon started with the Holy Father. Most of all, though, it was a scene of joy, for the new cardinals of course, but also for the Church as a whole. These men accepted the invitation to carry more tasks, more responsibility on their shoulders, and they did so with joy.

For now, let’s share that joy with a few more photos of today’s main event.

Cardinal Eijk has received the ring and biretta from the Holy Father

Other cardinals congratulate Cardinal Eijk

The youngest member of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Rainer Woelki

Before the start of the consistory, Cardinals-designate Eijk, Dolan and Tong Hon

Before the consistory, Cardinal-designate Monteiro de Castro chats with Cardinal Cañizares Llovera

With his trademark enthusiasm, Cardinal Dolan greets Cardinal Sodano

As he enters St. Peter's, Pope Benedict XVI p[asses Cardinals-designate Dolan, Betori, Woelki and Tong Hon

All doubts about his health cast aside, Cardinal Becker

Cardinal George Alencherry blesses the faithful in St. Peter's Square

An emotional Cardinal Grech

Photo credits:
[1], [2], [3], [4], [11] Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
[5], [7], [8] AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
[6] AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito
[9], [10] Reuters/Tony Gentile

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I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

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Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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