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One day before the admission of six new members to the group of cardinal electors, the number of that group drops with one to 114. Renato Raffaele Martino reached the age of 80 today and has thus became ineligible to vote in a future conclave.
Hailing from the southern Italian town of Salerno, Renato Martino entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1962, five years after his ordination to the priesthood. He earned a doctorate in canon law in that time. Fr. Martino served in various countries, among them Nicaragua, the Philippines, Lebanon, Canada and Brazil.
In 1980, he was consecrated to bishop and made titular archbishop of Segermes in modern Tunisia. Archbishop Martino was sent to head the diplomatic missions in Thailand, and Laos. In 1981, he also became such in Singapore in addition to his other positions. Brunei and Malaysia followed in 1983.
In 1986, he was reassigned to the high-profile position of Permanent Observer to the United Nations. In his time at the UN in New York, Archbishop Martino was an outspoken critic of the American invasion of Iraq in 1991. Another important call, related to his future functions in Rome, was his call for a safe heaven to be created for Tutsi refugees in Rwanda, to prevent the death of 30,000 people.
Archbishop Martino would continue in this position until 2002, when he was recalled to Rome to become president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. With that position came the red hat, and Cardinal Martino was created in 2003, in Blessed John Paul II’s last consistory. He became cardinal deacon of San Francesco di Paolo ai Monti. As head of Justice and Peace, Cardinal Martino intervened, to no avail, on behalf of Terri Schiavo, in the widely-covered case of her euthanasia. He also spoke out against the death sentence against Saddam Hussein and called for a international peace conference for the Middle East. He was once again openly against American interventions in Iraq. Later, he was involved in peace conferences between Israel and Palestinians, and likened Gaza to a “huge concentration camp”. In another example of his strongly pro-life position, Cardinal Martino urged Catholics to stop donating to Amnesty International when that organisation decided to advocate abortion in 2007.
From 2006 until his retirement in 2009, Cardinal Martino was also the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
Following his retirement, Cardinal Martino remained a member of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. His pro-life attitude was rewarded in 2009 with the awarding of the title of Honorary President of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in Rome. In 2011, in his last major diplomatic endeavours, Cardinal Martino visited Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
The consistory that Pope Benedict XVI announced at today’s general audience, and set for the 24th of November, has all the appearances of an in-between consistory. With only six cardinals to be created it is quite small, and it is as non-European as the previous consistory was European.
It’ll be Benedict’s fifth consistory, and by far his smallest. In fact, it will be the smallest consistory since Pope Paul VI elevated 4 cardinals in 1977. It will also be the first time since 1929 that there have been 2 consistories in one calendar year.
The six prelates to be elevated are:
Archbishop James Michael Harvey (63), the Prefect of the Papal Household, who will be appointed as archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls..
Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï (72), Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronite Church.
Archbishop Baselios Cleemis (Isaac) Thottunkal (53), Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankarese Church. Pictured at right.
Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan (68), Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria.
Archbishop Jesús Rubén Salazar Gómez (70), Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia.
Archbishop Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle (55), Archbishop Of Manila, Philippines.
Archbishop Tagle and Patriarch Raï were among the expected choices for the red hat at a future consistory, but the others were not. Only Archbishop Thottunkal is from a see which until now was not traditionally associated wih the title of a cardinal.
Archbishops Thottunkal and Tagle will be the youngest members of the College.
Another indicator that this is something of an in-between consistory, intended to keep the number of electors at or near 120, is that there are metropolitan archbishops of traditionally cardinalatial sees – such as Léonard of Brussels, Nichols of Westminster, Chaput of Philadelphia and Gómez of Los Angeles – still awaiting the red hat. At least some of them will be made cardinals in the future, but, apparently, now is not yet the time.
Barring any deaths, next month’s conclave will bring to size of the College of Cardinals to 211, with a round 120 of them being electors (Cardinals Arinze and Martino will turn 80 beforehand), including all six new ones.
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).