Pope Benedict XVI surprised Rome by announcing an impromptu consistory on the Feast of Jesus Christ Universal King. He will create 6 new cardinal electors. There will still be no English cardinal-elector.
The new cardinals are:James Michael Harvey, born in the United States and currently prefect of the Pontifical Household; Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Syriac Maronite patriarch of Antioch in Turkey; Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of Trivandrum, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, India; John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria; Jesus Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia; and Luis Antonio “Chito” Gokim Tagle, archbishop of Manila.
The pope appointed Harvey is to succeed Cardinal Francesco Monterisi as archpriest of St. Paul outside the Walls, one of the four papal basilicas in Rome.
It is the smallest consistory since 1977 when the then Archbishop Josef Ratzinger was amongst a small group elevated to the college by Pope Paul VI.
Needless to say at the Pope’s age any consistory fires off a new round of rumour about Pope’s most likely successor. For all that many pretend to be in the know – the truth is probably no one knows – save the Holy Spirit – who, as we have seen in the election of Pope John Paul I, can work in mysterious ways.
For those interested in such things below is a list of potential papabile – though amongst their number I’ve included the Patriarch of Venice who is not yet a cardinal. However, the college may in theory look to any bishop these days and it is often said that votes were cast in the conclave of 1958 – that elected Cardinal Angelo Roncalli as John XXIII – for the then archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini – who was elected pope in 1963 as Paul VI. Archbishop Montini was made cardinal in 1958 three weeks after John XXIII’s election.
- Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan
- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Italian bishops’ conference
- Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice (not yet a cardinal, but a favorite of the more traditionalist wing of the church)
- Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture ( Ravasi is a professor without pastoral experience; it is questionable whether there will be wide support for another academic)
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
- Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria
- Cardinal Peter Erdö of Budapest, Hungary
- Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France
- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
- Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil
- Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
- Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”