"With the new additions, the electoral College of Cardinals will be restored to 121 members – one over the now-traditional limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI in 1975. Of the total group, 49 (40%) will have been elevated by Pope Francis."
Another Scarlet Jolt! Five More Red Hats
by Rocco Palmo
For all the tools every Pope has at his disposal, it could be said that Francis wields none more effectively than the element of surprise.
Ergo, at the May 21 noontime Regina Caeli from the Window of the Apostolic Palace, Papa Bergoglio called a Consistory – his fourth – on the vigil of Peter and Paul, June 28, for the creation of five new Cardinals, all of them electors:
- •Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali (age 73)
- •Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain (71)
- •Bishop Anders Arborelius OCD of Stockholm, Sweden (67)
- •Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, vicar-apostolic of Paksé, Laos (73)
- •Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary of San Salvador, El Salvador (74)
With the new additions, the electoral College will be restored to 121 members – one over the now-traditional limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI in 1975. Of the total group, 49 (40%) will have been elevated by Francis.
Even for their nomination today, Cardinals-designate don’t enjoy their voting rights until their names are published within the Consistory itself.
Following quickly on the heels of November’s intake of 17 new Cardinals, while some buzz has circulated over recent weeks tipping a late June encore, the rumors had foreseen what would’ve been a historic super-sizing of the voting ranks – an idea which has circulated for some time, possibly ballooning the papal electorate as high as 145 or even 150 members.
Even on just a temporary basis, there is precedent for such a move: at his first Consistory after the Jubilee Year of 2000, now-St. John Paul II had expanded the voting College to 135 cardinals by elevating 44 prelates younger than 80 – Jorge Bergoglio among them. (Speaking of John Paul, it also bears noting that each of today’s designates were named bishops by the Polish Pope.)
In any case, even if the final Biglietto is far smaller than would’ve been expected, the group strikes a fresh blow for the inclusion of the Church’s "peripheries" in the ranks of the Pope’s "Senate" – with the exception of Omella, each of the designates are the first Cardinals ever to hail from their respective countries; aside from the Spanish-speaking picks, the new crop all lead miniscule Catholic communities comprising less than five percent of their general populations.
The first native Swede named a bishop since the Reformation (after centuries of missionaries serving the country’s small Catholic community), Arborelius will be the first-ever Cardinal on duty in Scandinavia.
And in the choice of Rosa Chavez – one of the closest collaborators of Blessed Oscar Romero – at least for the first time in the post-Conciliar period, not only has an auxiliary bishop been given the red hat, but likewise a cleric currently serving as pastor of a parish (which is, of course, the historic foundation of the office, the original Cardinals having been the pastors of Rome, hence the task of electing the city’s Bishop).
As for the timing, beyond the topping up of the voting ranks, it is likely that this Consistory will see Francis convene the now-routine day-long consultation with the entire College on the eve of the elevations, which was conspicuous by its absence in November. Despite the short notice, a hefty chunk of the far-flung Cardinals already tend to be in Rome in late June as the dicasteries of the Curia wrap up their last plenary meetings before the summer exodus.