Pope Benedict’s 'Little Consistory'

Geographical balance will be added to the College of Cardinals Nov. 24.

Pope Benedict XVI has named six new cardinals as a "gesture of the universality of the Church" and "in the context of the New Evangelization."

The new members of the College of Cardinals, including one American — Vatican Archbishop James Harvey — will be appointed in an unexpected consistory, scheduled to take place Nov. 24.

Speaking extemporaneously Oct. 27 at the final session of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, the Pope said the "little consistory" would "complete" a previous one held in February, at which 22 new cardinals were appointed. Many of those new cardinals hailed from Europe and Italy in particular. Ten were also cardinals of the Roman Curia.

The Holy Father said these six new cardinals do not come from Europe. This shows the Church is for "all peoples, speaks in every language," the Pope added. "It is always the Church of Pentecost, not the Church of one continent, but of the universal Church."

The Pope invited "everyone to pray for the newly elected, asking the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that they will always love with courage and dedication to Christ and his Church."

The new cardinals, whom the Holy Father announced at the end of his weekly general audience Oct. 25, are: Milwaukee native Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household (the Pope also said he plans to appoint Archbishop Harvey archpriest of the papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls); the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Béchara Boutros Raï; Archbishop Baselios Cleemis (Isaac) Thottunkal, major archbishop of Trivandrum (Syro-Malankara rite), India; Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria; Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia; and Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines.


Archbishop Harvey

Archbishop Harvey was born in Milwaukee in 1949 and ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI on June 29, 1975. He studied at the North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome before being trained as a Vatican diplomat at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and earning a doctorate in canon law. In 1998, he was named prefect of the papal household by Pope John Paul II, who later elevated him to the dignity of archbishop in 2003.

During his service in the papal household, Archbishop Harvey gained a reputation as a trusted and valued official, often seen at the Pope’s side on major occasions and responsible for arranging his audiences and other daily engagements.

Blessed John Paul II considered him one of his closest aides and would describe him as his "faithful collaborator in the Secretariat of State." And although he has spent 30 years as a Holy See official, he still keeps ties with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and will occasionally return there to preach.


Other New Cardinals

Patriarch Raï, 72, is a well-respected leader of Lebanon’s Christians who studied at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and worked in the Arabic section of Vatican Radio in the 1970s. Elected patriarch last year, he was praised for his organization of the Pope’s trip to Lebanon in September. He is seen as a unifying force among Middle-East Christians.

Cardinal-designate Thottunkal is the major archbishop of Trivandrum, India’s oldest Christian community. His appointment underlines the increasing importance the Pope attaches to India and its Christian rites. Speaking to Vatican Radio after his appointment, Cardinal-designate Thottunkal said he was only notified about the appointment the day before the announcement, but added it was "a great honor for the Church in India." At just 53, he will become the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

Sixty-eight-year-old Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, has long been seen as deserving of a red beretta. Now that fellow Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze has turned 80, it’s also likely the Pope felt it important to have another voting cardinal from this leading African nation (only cardinals younger than 80 are permitted to vote in papal elections). Moreover, as Islamists continue to target Nigerian Catholics with weekly deadly attacks, his appointment will be seen as a sign of solidarity with the country’s suffering local Church.

Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, 70, is known for standing up for the hostages of drug traffickers and for his work with the International Red Cross in Colombia. On his appointment as archbishop in 2010, he promised to focus on three priorities — "protecting marriage as the union between one man and one woman, saving innocent life in the womb and promoting peace in Colombia." Until his appointment, Columbia was lacking a cardinal of voting age, as three are now over 80.

Lastly, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, 54, of Manila, Philippines, will be made a cardinal. Some have criticized him for showing support for the "Bologna School," which believes the Second Vatican Council represented a necessary break with Catholic Tradition and the beginning of a new Church more in tune with modernity. This is at odds with the Pope’s own view, which sees the Council as a hermeneutic of continuity and reform. Nevertheless, the Pope has shown trust in Archbishop Tagle and allowed him to take a leading role in the recent Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

It is very unusual for a pope to call two consistories in the same year. The last time it occurred was in 1929, under Pope Pius XI. Pope John XXIII held two consistories within 12 months in the 1960s, but not in the same year (March 1960 and January 1961).


Benedict’s Cardinals

This will also be Pope Benedict’s fifth consistory, and with these appointments, he will have created 90 new cardinals. As of Nov. 24, the College of Cardinals will number 211 cardinals, of whom 120 will be eligible to vote in a conclave — in line with the limit of 120 set by Paul VI.

This means that of the cardinal electors nearly two-thirds have been created by Benedict XVI, making his own influence on the choice of his successor decisive.