Vatican: A Ninth Consistory on the Horizon

April 28, 2023
2022 Consistory

The years 2023 and 2024 should see more than twenty cardinals leave the college of electors of the future pope because of the 80 year age limit. Everything therefore suggests that the current Roman Pontiff should not delay too long in convening the ninth ordinary public consistory of his pontificate, allowing him to imprint his mark a little more on the Sacred College.

And from nine? A consistory atmosphere is slowly setting in, in Rome. Let us recall that in the Church, a public consistory consists of the meeting of all or part of the college of cardinals – the famous Sacred College – a meeting convened by the Pope, when the latter considers that a subject is of sufficient importance to necessitate the cardinals coming to Rome.

A consistory can be ordinary. In this case, all the cardinals are summoned, at least those who are in Rome, in order to be consulted on certain serious matters, which arise quite commonly, or else in order to perform certain particularly solemn acts, such as canonizations or the creation of cardinals.

It can also be extraordinary, “when particular needs of the Church or the study of matters of great importance advise it,” specifies canon law. All the cardinals are then called to Rome on this occasion. Unlike the ordinary consistory, the extraordinary consistory is always held behind closed doors.

By the motu proprio Ingravescentem Aetatem, of November 21, 1970, Pope Paul VI determined that only cardinals under the age of 80 could elect the Pope; and by the apostolic constitution Romano Pontifici eligendo, of October 1, 1975, he limited the number of electors to 120. John Paul II exceeded this ceiling several times, with the college of electors reaching 135 in 2001 and 2003.

Since April 27, 2023, Cardinal Dominik Duka, Archbishop Emeritus of Prague, has reached the age limit of 80, which no longer allows him to exercise his right to vote in the event of a conclave: the Sacred College is currently composed of 122 voters.

Eight other porporati will lose their right to vote due to the age limit, by the end of the year 2023, bringing the number of voters to 114. During the year 2024, thirteen additional cardinals will follow the same path. Everything therefore suggests that the convocation of an ordinary public consistory could take place during this year, or at the beginning of 2024, at the latest.

The current Roman pontiff has created 80 of the 122 voters in the Sacred College as of April 27, 2023. A number equivalent to two-thirds of the votes that the successor of Pope Francis will have to collect in order to be elected in the event of a conclave.

However, the die is not cast as to the profile of the future head of the Church: as the current pope likes to say, “our God is not a God of habits, but a God of surprises.”