Pope Francis is unusually not convening a meeting of cardinals ahead of Saturday’s consistory for the creation of 17 new cardinals.

The traditional pre-consistory meeting is an opportunity for the Pope to consult with his cardinals, most of whom will be in Rome for the creation of new princes of the Church. Their role is to act as his closest advisors as well as elect his successor.

During the Pope’s previous two consistories, in February 2014 and February 2015, the Holy Father held such meetings. They took place in the Synod Hall, lasted two full days, and were an opportunity for the Pope to hear about issues and concerns from around the world, as well as update the cardinals on Vatican-related issues and those of the universal Church.

For a pope to skip holding a pre-consistory meeting is rare but not unprecedented. Benedict similarly dropped such a meeting ahead of his last cardinal-making consistory in November 2012, but held them for his other four.

Vaticanist Marco Tosatti of La Stampa believes that the submission of five questions or “doubts” about Amoris Laetitia that four cardinals sent to the Pope in September and which he has declined to answer, may be a motivating factor behind Francis’ decision this year.

Tosatti asserts that the dubia, although not made public when the Pope decided against holding such a meeting, were going to be “resubmitted” during the pre-consistory gathering, “not only by the signatories of the request for clarification, but also perhaps by other cardinals, eager for a decisive word from the Pope.” It’s a situation, he added, the Pope probably “preferred to avoid.”

But Tosatti noted that the Vatican has not given an official reason for the decision. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke has also not responded to a Register enquiry about the real motives behind the decision not to hold the meeting. 

Despite the absence of such a pre-consistory meeting this year, the Pope will, as is customary, create the new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at 11am on Saturday, Nov. 19.

On Saturday afternoon, the newly elevated cardinals will also follow the custom of meeting the faithful and receiving their good wishes from 4.30pm to 6.30pm in the Paul VI Hall, but not, as in other years, additionally in the apostolic palace. 

The Pope will then celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the feast of Christ the King and the official end of the Holy Year of Mercy.

Deacon Nick Donnelly has more on this story on EWTN-UK here.