Consistory Central for November 20, 2010 Consistory
by Anura Guruge
‘Consistory’ comes from the Latin consistorium, i.e., sitting together.
Cardinals, more or less in the context we know them now (albeit sans the College), came to be in 769 at a Roman synod convened by Stephen III (IV) (#95). Click on chart at right.
In 853, at another Roman synod, this one convened by Leo IV (#104), and attended by 67 bishops, it was decreed that henceforth all the cardinals (all of them, without exception, then resident in or around Rome) would meet with the pope, on a weekly basis, at the papal palace (then the Lateran Palace) to discuss Church matters. This was the genesis of consistories. It was the logical forum at which to announce the intent to create new cardinals and to actually create them. Cardinal creation was thus but a special instance of a general consistory.
Sixtus ‘the iron pope’ V (#228), a Franciscan and ex-inquisitor general, between 1586 and 1588, made a concerted attempt to reinvigorate the Holy See (after he had ruthlessly subdued the Papal States). Among his reforms: he specified 70 cardinals as the maximum size of the College of Cardinals, barred illegitimates and those that were biological fathers from being cardinals, as well as implementing, via an Apostolic Constitution Immensa (1588), the now familiar structure of the Roman curia. The centralized curial administration, with cardinals running most, if not all, dicasteries, eliminated the need for the weekly consistories. This is the current norm.
TWO CLASSES OF CONSISTORY
Cardinal creating consistories are but a special case of ordinary consistories.
It is not uncommon for a pope to convene at least one ordinary consistories per year that does not involve the creation of new cardinals. Benedict XVI (#266) held a ordinary consistory for ‘some causes of canonization’ on Saturday, February 21, 2009. He held another one, this time for ‘several causes of canonization’ on Saturday, March 1, 2008. There was another in 2007, on Friday, February 23, 2007, again for ‘several causes of canonization’ in addition to the last cardinal creating consistory on Saturday, November 24, 2007 at which he created 23 new cardinals, 5 of whom were over 80.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF A CARDINAL-CREATING CONSISTORY
By tradition, cardinal creating consistories are announced on a Wednesday, during or after the pope’s general audience, or on a Sunday, after the pope’s customary Angelus devotion.
The last cardinal creating consistory, on Saturday, November 24, 2007 was announced on Wednesday, October 17, 2007.
The prior cardinal creating consistory, on Friday, March 24, 2006 was announced on Wednesday, February 22, 2006.
So, typically the announcement comes 5 to 6 weeks ahead of the cardinal creating consistory.
The ‘announcement’ per se consists of three distinct parts: a preamble homily by the pope, a list of the prelates that will be created and a formal notification as to where the consistory will be held, the dress code and who may attend. If there are to be in pectore ‘appointments’ this could be noted, though the pope could also wait to do so until the actual consistory. There have been instances of would be cardinals named in the announcement dying prior to the consistory — in one case at least just prior to the start of the consistory.
Existing cardinals attending the consistory are expected to wear their red cassock, white, lace Rochet and Mozzetta. The cardinals to be created are requested to be in choir dress — as are any other prelates, i.e., patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots etc., that intend to attend.
The last two consistories were held in or in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. There is a special Consistory Hall in the Apostolic Palace but this, though fairly spacious, is not big enough for contemporary cardinal creating consistories. Cardinal creating consistories typically held in the morning, between 10 and 10:30. Cardinals are requested to gather 30 minutes prior to the designated start time.
PROCESS AND FORMAT OF A CARDINAL CREATING CONSISTORY (post 1991)
In 1991, prior to his June 28, 1991 consistory [his fourth at which he created 24 cardinals], John Paul II (#265) established a new set of protocols for cardinal creating consistories. These are the ones that are still in use. The sequence of events are as follows:
1/ Initial liturgical greeting.
2/ Pope reads out the formula for creation which includes the names of the cardinals being created. The names are read out in the order they appeared in the consistory announcement. This order determines precedence within the College, with the first one named at the consistory deemed the most senior of that consistory — and by convention the new cardinal most favored by the pope.
Per a 1904 ruling, that overturned one from 1431, the new cardinals are bona fide as of this moment, and can participate in a conclave if they had — even though they have not as yet received their ‘insignia.’ This, with modern jet travel, is really not an issue anymore. But, in the past there were delays between new cardinals getting named and them receiving their ‘insignia.’ These days it all happens at the same time, unless one is unable to attend the consistory because of health or ‘political/safety’ issues.
3/ The first named new cardinal, the de facto most senior of the newly created, then pays homage to the pope, in words, on behalf of all the new cardinals.
4/ The pope now delivers a homily, known as the ‘Liturgy of the Word.’
5/ Each new cardinal then professes his faith (Profession of Faith) and takes an oath of fidelity.
6/ Each new cardinal approaches the pope and kneels in front of the pope to receive their iconic red biretta. As he places the red biretta on a cardinal’s head, the pope intones in Latin: ‘This red biretta as a sign of the dignity of the office of a cardinal, signifying that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church’.
[The notion of wearing red hats, to signify this willingness to shed their blood for the Church, emanates from Innocent IV's (#181) First Council of Lyon [France] in 1245. The authority to wear more red, in particular the red zuccheto came to be in 1464 as a part of a peace-offering by Paul II (#212) for reneging on a conclave capitulation. Page 110 of ‘The Next Pope‘.]
7/ While kneeling, the new cardinal is also told of the title (in the case of Cardinal Bishop or Cardinal Priest) or deaconry (in the case of a Cardinal Deacon, unless it is being assigned pro hac vice to a priest) that they have been assigned.
Of ‘late’ new cardinal bishops are those promoted from within the College, as opposed to ones newly created. But, there is nothing in Canon Law (which is very light on cardinal bishops) or papal lore to preclude a pope creating a new cardinal bishop provided a suburbicarian see was vacant. I know, without having done any major research, of three who were created cardinal bishops, straight off the bat; viz. Amedeo di Savoie in 1449, Bernard de Castanet in 1316 and Niccolo Alberti in 1303. There is probably more. I just haven’t looked. You can by all means help us out by going and checking.
8/ The pope hands the new cardinal a rolled up scroll, the ‘Bull of Creation,’ which formally documents the title or deaconary assigned to the new cardinal.
9/ The pope and the new cardinal exchange a kiss of peace.
10/ All of the newly created cardinals exchange kisses of peaces among them.
11/ There is a ‘Prayer to the Faithful,’ a recitation of the ‘Our Father,’ and a final blessing by the pope.
This concludes the consistory per se, though another related ceremony follows the next day. The cardinals will typically now join the pope for lunch.
The next morning the pope will join the newly created cardinals to conclebrate Mass. During this Mass the pope will present each new cardinal with a ring that denotes: ‘the sign of dignity, pastoral care and the most solid communion with the See of Peter‘. As he places the ring on the finger of each new cardinal, the pope will intone, in Latin: ‘Take this ring from the hand of Peter and know that, with the love of the Prince of the Apostles, your love for the Church is strengthened’.
It is expected that the Mass following the cardinal creating consistory will be a Cappella Papale at the Sistine Chapel. See October 13 posting.
VATICAN DOCUMENTATION FOR THE LAST TWO CONSISTORIES
These are worth looking at since they give you the true flavor of what to expect. There is also an intriguing photo gallery for each.
November 24, 2007 Consistory
March 24, 2006 Consistory