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.
Search ‘Next Pope’.