Thoughts On The “Next Conclave” By U.K. Catholic Canon Anthony Churchill, STL — Latest Consistory, November 2020.

by Canon Anthony Churchill, STL.

November 6, 2020

Implication of forthcoming consistory on conclave.

The decision of the Pope to create 13 new Cardinals will add to the unpredictability of the next Conclave. Nine of these will be electors while 4 are in effect ‘honorary’ Cardinals, being over the age of 80 (i.e., non-electors).

It seems unlikely that the Consistory set for November 28th can take place in the normal way. The COVID 19 pandemic and the restrictions on public events and on travel must make it inappropriate to ask elderly gentlemen to travel from all over the world at this time. Neither can it be wise to encourage the normal crowds of supporters to do the same.

I would hope that that the Pope will hold a brief ceremony in Rome with  the Curial Cardinals in order to officially “create” the new Cardinals, and postpone the ceremonies until a later date.

Pope John Paul II started the custom of inviting the entire College of Cardinals to come to Rome for these consistories. It was the custom to hold a day-long meeting of the College to which the new men were invited. These meetings gave the Cardinals a chance to meet each other and to some extent at least to get to know each other. This practice continued under Pope Benedict XVI, but has been stopped by the present Pope. It is not clear why Pope Francis should have done this, but in my view,, it does not help the new Cardinals to integrate and become more aware of the wider Church.

To my mind it can only be a disadvantage if the Cardinals arrive for the eventual Conclave not knowing each other. Francis has chosen men from all over the world, many from remote parts. They may well be outstanding pastors and men of wide pastoral experience, but they will often be strangers to Rome, and unfamiliar with its ways and the Italian language.

On the one hand this very diverse College could allow for an original and perhaps surprising result. It might lead to a Pope from “the peripheries” with a very different perspective on the future of the Church. Such a Pope might reflect more closely the concerns of Catholics in a very diverse world.

On the other hand , it seems to me that a large number of recently created Cardinals who are strangers to the Vatican and to each other could be at risk of being manipulated by those who are sometimes known  as the “grand electors”. Groups who are well known to each other and are well versed in Vatican affairs could exercise undue influence in these circumstances.

It remains to be seen how this will all “play out”, but it certainly does not make it any easier to predict what might happen at the Conclave when it comes.

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1 thought on “Thoughts On The “Next Conclave” By U.K. Catholic Canon Anthony Churchill, STL — Latest Consistory, November 2020.

  1. prospero

    Only a few comments to Fr. Anthony´s statements: I do not believe that it will be such a major problem for a future election if there were no extraordinary assemblies of Cardinals under Pope Francis. First of all, it should not be forgotten that nowadays social media offers various ways to get in touch. On the basis of this, I could imagine that the electors will find ways and means to obtain the information necessary for a subsequent Conclave even without personal encounters.
    Taking look at the history of the papal elections we know that according to tradition the direct exchange of views between the Cardinals primarily takes place during the Sede Vacante. In my opinion, the meetings held under JP II and B XVI were ultimately connected with the intention of clearly campaigning for a specific candidate. In this respect, Bergoglio’s attitude to this question is much more sympathetic to me. I hope that he will serve as long as he can appoint even more Cardinals who will elect a successor to continue the actual path.

    As for the question of succession, I remember the statement by vaticanista Marco Politi who tated in 2018 that if a Conclave were to take place in the near future, he would not dare to make a sure prediction who could be elected. Since then it seems to me that not much has changed in this situation, so that it is still difficult to draw up a list of possible candidates . In contrast to this, the opponents of the current Pope were incomparably more diligent in their search for candidates and in so the results are clearly expressed in Pentin’s book “The Next Pope”.If one takes a look at the candidates presented in this publication it turns out that the author was not concerned with presenting an objective selection of contenders for the papacy. How else could it be possible that, for example, Sarah, Burke, Müller, Ejik or Bagnasco are seriously considered as actual candidates as possible successors to Pope Francis?

    As far as the danger of a possible manipulation of so-called inexperienced Cardinals living far from Rome is concerned, appropriate attempts certainly must be taken into account. On the other hand, , it cannot be ruled out that the “representatives of the periphery” in their voting behavior will not orientate themselve to “Vatican guidelines”and therefore would go their own way. Such a behavior could of course be a consequence of the various efforts to restructure the electoral college which was realized in recent years . If one takes into account the redistribution of the balance of power that has already taken place, I suppose it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the traditional “big voters” can single-handedly determine the development of a future conclave.


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