Benedict preparing to create new cardinals

Pope Benedict is widely expected to create his first batch of cardinals next month, and speculation is rife in the Italian press over who will be the new 'princes' of the Church.

ANSA reports that the Italian media is claiming that Vatican will announce the date of the special ceremony, or 'consistory', to create the new cardinals next week.

Most analysts believe a date towards the end of March, possibly the 24th, is the most likely.

Consistories have to be held at fairly regular intervals in order to top up the pool of cardinals who, being less than 80 years old, have the right to elect popes.

At present there are 108 cardinals under 80.

Since Pope Paul VI there has been an unofficial rule that there should be no more than 120 cardinal 'electors'. However, John Paul II broke that ceiling several times and at one point the total reached 135.

According to Vatican watchers, several of the new cardinals are almost obligatory choices for Benedict. This is because certain important archdioceses are traditionally led by cardinals.

The archbishops of Paris, Dublin, Toledo, Boston, Brasilia, Bologna, and Krakow (John Paul II's old archdiocese) currently lack the red cardinals' caps and so are seen as the most likely to be chosen by Benedict.

Certain jobs in the Vatican, especially the heads of departments, are also traditionally held by cardinals. Among these is Benedict's old post as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to which he appointed American archbishop William Levada.

The head of the congregation for religious orders, Msgr Franc Rodé, and the pope's 'foreign minister', Giovanni Lajolo, are also seen as being practically certain to get red hats.

There is also a mystery that some observers believe Benedict could resolve at his first consistory, by revealing a name that his predecessor took to the grave with him.

At his last consistory, John Paul created one cardinal whose name he kept secret because of fears that the honour might create problems for the receiver.

Pope to create new cardinals (ANSA.it 13/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
College of Cardinals (Aquinas Multimedia)

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14 Feb 2006