Creation of 21 Cardinals in a Pre-Conclave Atmosphere (1)

July 06, 2022
Consistory Mass at St. Peter’s in February 2012

On May 29, 2022, the Pope announced that he would creation of 21 cardinals during the consistory to be held on August 27. 16 will be electors and five non-electors, because they are over 80 years old.

In addition to three prelates working in the Vatican (British, South Korean, Spanish), there are two Europeans (French, Italian), two Africans (Nigerian, Ghanaian), one North American (United States), and three South American (two Brazilians, one Paraguayan), and five Asian (two Indians, a Singaporean, an East Timorese). The College of Cardinals therefore continues to internationalize.

Cardinals According to the Pope's Heart

Several of these future cardinals are considered by the Vaticanists to be “Bergoglian” prelates. Thus the Frenchman Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille, 63, in whom the Pope sees a defender of a “happy Mediterranean” where migration is above all an enrichment.

As such, Bishop Aveline is unquestionably the most “Bergoglian” of the French bishops. In April 2021, he met one-on-one with Francis for almost an hour, evoking a “Mediterranean theology,” according to which dialogue and exchanges between the peoples of the Mediterranean rim should make it possible to deploy “a great peace tent.”

According to the Swiss agency of May 29, “Pope Francis and the future cardinal share a certain vision of the mission of the Catholic Church in the Mediterranean: between peaceful dialogue with Islam, fraternity and solidarity with the other shore. ‘Marseille is more than a city: it’s a message! A message where distress mingles with hope,’ Bishop Aveline told Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, during a visit to his city in August 2021.”

Another prelate dear to the heart of Pope Francis, the Briton Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 72 years old. In 2012 Benedict XVI called him to Rome and appointed him secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. He then became the “number two” of the dicastery with Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera until 2014, then at the side of his successor Cardinal Robert Sarah, appointed by Pope Francis on November 23, 2014.

After having himself succeeded the Guinean cardinal in May 2021, Msgr. Roche’s first months at the head of the dicastery for the liturgy were marked by the publication of the Motu proprio Traditionis custodes, restricting the possibilities of celebrating the Tridentine Mass. He displayed such zeal in the application of this Motu proprio that he has certainly deserved the cardinal's hat.

He too is considered a “Bergoglian” of strict observance, though some Vaticanists fear that his hat is larger than his intelligence.

In the United States, Robert Walter McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, California, 68, is – unlike some of his colleagues – opposed to the principle of banning communion for abortion-supporting political leaders. He is also known to have opposed Donald Trump, whose project for an anti-migrant wall on the Mexican border he described as “grotesque and ineffective.”

His creation as a cardinal seems to be a way of counterbalancing the influence of two conservative Californian prelates: Msgr. Salvatore Cordileone, the Archbishop of San Francisco,  and Msgr. José Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles and the current president of the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB).

In Brazil, Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, 71, Archbishop of Manaus, the most populous city in the Amazon region, which is an important point of contact with the immense forest. In April 2022, he was named president of the Special Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, succeeding progressive Cardinal Claudio Hummes.

His entry into the Sacred College is a continuation of the Synod on the Amazon held in 2019 at the Vatican, in order to ensure visibility for this region in future ecclesial debates. With the idea of ​​Amazonizing the Church through the ordination of married men and the discovery of the pagan rite of Pachamama, the goddess of Mother Earth, which was celebrated in Rome on October 4, 2019, during the Synod on the Amazon.

The announcement on May 29 of the consistory to be held three months later, on August 27, made several Roman observers wonder what the rights of these future cardinals would be if a conclave were to be held before the consistory. In other words, would they be able to participate in the election of the next pope or not? This question shows the pre-conclave climate that the worrying state of health of the Pope is creating in Rome.

Questioned by the agency on May 31, Msgr. Patrick Valdrini, emeritus professor of canon law at the Lateran University, replied: “In the event of the death or resignation of Pope Francis before August 27, the announcement of this consistory, whose convocation is strictly linked to the reigning pontiff, would be null and void. Only the cardinal electors already created, currently 117 in number, would therefore be summoned to the conclave. The status of cardinal is linked to the holding of the consistory and not to the simple announcement of its convocation.”

And he added that the announcement of a consistory engages only the reigning pope. If the current pontificate were to be discontinued, the choice of future cardinals being linked to a personal decision by Pope Francis, “his successor could not create them,” estimates Msgr.  Valdrini. The custom being nevertheless to give pledges of continuity, at least at the beginning of the pontificate, the new pope could however convene another consistory with the same list, or by supplementing it.

A Magazine for Cardinals in View of the Conclave

For the past few months, a new magazine created especially for the cardinals has been circulating among them, with the avowed aim of helping them “to know each other in order to make the right decisions in important moments in the life of the Church.” In other words: in anticipation of the future conclave, as Sandro Magister frankly writes on his blog Settimo Cielo of May 12, 2022.

The Cardinalis magazine is sent to all members of the Sacred College and can be read in four languages, in print or online. It is published in Versailles, France. The writing is ensured by “a team of Vaticanists from all countries and from various tendencies.” The first issue came out in November 2021, the second in April 2022, with Cardinal Camillo Ruini on the cover giving an interview to American journalist Diane Montagna.

The high Italian prelate, quoted by Sandro Magister, emphasizes that “we must not hide the truth of Jesus Christ as sole Savior of all, affirmed by the New Testament and reaffirmed by the declaration Dominus Jesus of 2000, a ‘fundamental document’ against the relativism present even in the Church.”

The Roman Vaticanist comments: “Ruini does not say it, but this capital truth must return to the center of attention for the cardinals called to elect the next pope is strongly emphasized a few pages later in this same issue of Cardinalis, in a text with the unequivocal title of ‘Memorandum for a future conclave.’”

“Signed by Professor Pietro De Marco but the offspring of a larger think tank, the Memorandum warns against equating Christian revelation with other religions, and stripping Jesus’ death on the cross of any redemptive value, reducing it to an ethical message of transformation for hearts and society.”

The Italian Vaticanist adds: “The affirmation of the unique and universal character of the saving mediation of Christ is instead a central part of the good news that the Church has been proclaiming continuously since the apostolic age. ‘This (Jesus) is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.’” (Acts 4:11-12).

“If this primordial truth is obfuscated, ‘as is unfortunately happening, the dissolution of the Christian subject begins.’ And therefore also in a conclave – the Memorandum warns – what must return to the center of reflection ‘fidelity to the Petrine task of strengthening the brethern’ on this cornerstone of the Christian Creed. With no more of those surrenders produced by certain irenicist and trivializing interpretations of an encyclical like Fratelli tutti by Pope Francis.”

It should be noted that this memorandum is the second addressed to the cardinals in view of the conclave. The first was published on March 15, by Sandro Magister who presented it in these terms: “Since the beginning of Lent, the cardinals who will elect the future pope have been passing this memorandum around. Its author, who goes by the name of Demos, ‘people’ in Greek, is unknown, but shows himself a thorough master of the subject. It cannot ruled out that he himself is a cardinal.”

Still in the second issue of Cardinalis there is an interesting article by Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, eloquently entitled “Prolegomena on the interviews [of the cardinals] before the conclaves.” The former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences declares that what is in question “the reciprocal relationship between the pope and the Church,” specifying that the pope is a member of the Church who has the duties of Servus servorum, the Servant of servants.

Therefore “the pope in no way must, or even can, reign as an absolute monarch,” because he is not above the canonical laws. “His activity reaches a limit when it comes to the ‘generalis status ecclesiae,’ that is, the fundamental nucleus of the doctrine and constitution of the Church,” insists the German prelate, adding bluntly:

“In short, even the pope, when he does not respect the law, can be an offender. However, in this case it would not be possible to take him to court, on account of the principle established in the 4th century: ‘Prima sedes a nemine judicatur,’ ‘the first seat cannot be judged by anyone.’” Which includes the implication: “to this corresponds a graduated duty of obedience on the part of the members of the Church.”

And he insists: “The increase in the number of dismissals of bishops by order of the Mufti in the recent past must be analyzed from this angle,” that of the mystery of the Church and the limits of papal power. The article firmly concludes: “It will be up to the conclave to elect a pope aware of his apostolic mandate, including its limits.”