(Rome) Rumors are gathering in Rome that it might soon come to the convening of a consistory to create new cardinals. Cardinal appointments always mean a redesign of the elective body for a possible conclave.
Next Saturday, a decent consistory will take place, where, according to Jan Hendrik Stens (Domradio), "surprises might be possible". Currently, according to the electoral code for a conclave, which provides for a maximum of 120 papal electors, five elective seats are free. Pope Francis could forgive these and keep a few more "already in stock,” as in the course of next year, five more seats will become vacant. On June 8, two weeks after Pentecost, Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will celebrate his 80th birthday. For now, it's all about the announcement of new Cardinal appointments, which could take place on Saturday.
According to rumors, Francis could already accept the not yet vacant seat of Cardinal Amato and announce the creation of six new cardinals, who would also be papal electors. As a result, no seat will be vacated until 30 January 2019 (Aberto Cardinal Suarez Inda, Mexico). Cardinals automatically retire as papal electors at the age of 80. The Pope has two options for appointing six new electors before the summer break, or waiting for almost a year to create eleven new papal electors.
If Francis, for the time being only rumors, announces on Saturday another consistory with cardinal appointments, the. the 28th of June, the day before the celebration of the apostolic princes Peter and Paul, will be the most probable day. The festival is what the Romans call the "feast of the pope".
Urge to quickly change the voting body
The likelihood that Pope Francis will not wait, but will create new cardinals in the coming weeks is very high. Overall, his pontificate tends to appoint new cardinals as soon as possible. There is a certain urge to find the fastest possible conversion of the voting body. Since Francis at the same time has discounted episcopal seats, which were traditionally associated with the purple dignity, he increased in comparison to his predecessors, his personal scope to appointments of his free choice. Both aspects, the hurry and the greater scope, obviously have his successor in the sights. Francis repeatedly spoke of wanting to initiate "irreversible processes". This only seems possible because his pontificate lasts as long as possible, or he creates an electoral body, which ensures a Bergoglian successor.
Both variants contain imponderables. As Pope Benedict XVI. surprisingly prematurely ended his pontificate, which - as it turns out - could have continued until today, had gathered to the conclave an electoral body, which had been largely appointed by him. The publicly known opponents of his pontificate made up barely a tenth of the papal electors. Nevertheless, it was this minority that took the book in hand, so that it came by the choice of an outsider to great surprise.
Currently, the College of Cardinals has 214 members, 115 of whom are also papal electors. There are 99 cardinals over 80 years old. If life expectancy continues to increase, they could soon become the majority. At the latest then, a review of the age limit should be on the agenda. It was not until 1970 that Paul VI. introduced what constitutes an arbitrary interference with the suffrage and powers of the cardinal college.
The Argentine question
One of the rumors currently circulating in Rome is one concerning Argentina, home of Pope Francis. Since April, the emeritus of his main counterpart, Msgr. Hector Ruben Aguer, Archbishop of La Plata, is expected to complete his 75th birthday on May 24 and offer his resignation to the Pope according to the Canon Law. There is speculation that Francis will immediately accept the resignation of his opponent to make his confidant, the former rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, Msgr. Victor Manuel Fernandez, the new archbishop of the second most important diocese of Argentina - and at the same time, cardinal.
Fernandez is Bergoglio's eyeball since his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Already there he was his speechwriter and has acted since the conclave of 2013 as a papal ghostwriter. Other voices say that Francis could conceal the retirement of his Argentine counterpart by making Msgr. Aguer a cardinal at the same time. The latter, however, seems less likely, as Aguer could have a say in the choice of a Franciscan successor for another five years.
His successor as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Msgr. Mario Poli, Francis immediately raised in the first cardinal selection of his pontificate in the church senate.
Altogether, Pope Francis has appointed 49 of the current 115 pope voters. Soon it could be 55 out of 120.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Picture: Riscossa Cristiana
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