January 12, 2001
volume 12, no. 12
Consistory Conjectures

by Robert Moynihan, Editor, INSIDE THE VATICAN

Who will be the new cardinals? With Pope John Paul II's choices now imminent -- he reportedly will make the names public on Sunday, January 14 -- speculation in Rome has reached a fever pitch

    When Rome's cardinals, bishops and monsignori gathered in the Vatican's magnificent Sala Clementina on December 21, 2000, to hear the Pope's annual Christmas message to the Roman Curia, they were in for an unpleasant surprise. Rather than the expected praise for their Holy Year accomplishments, the Church luminaries received from their Holy Father a rather stern admonition: "The Roman Curia should be a place which exudes saintliness, where competition and ambition are 'a priori' out of place..." Evidently, a considerable amount of elbowing and lobbying has been going on in Vatican corridors in view of an expected Consistory -- a gathering to name new cardinals -- in the near future.

    On January 9, Orazio Petrosillo, the Vaticanist of Rome's daily Il Messaggero, reported that John Paul will announce the names of the new cardinals on Sunday, January 14. The actual Consistory, if Petrosillo is correct, would then be held in mid-February, probably on February 22 -- Rome always announces the names of the new cardinals about one month before the Consistory in order to allow time for all those named to make preparations to come to Rome.

    This is not yet confirmed, and Petrosillo could be wrong.

    But he, and other Vaticanists, have been arguing for several months that a Consistory is "just around the corner," and it does seem that it would be more of a surprise if John Paul does not call a Consistory in the next few days than if he does.

    How many cardinals will John Paul name? No one knows for sure.

    There are now 95 cardinals under 80, and the limit for the College of Cardinals set by Pope Paul VI is 120, leaving just 25 "openings" in the college. So 25 new cardinals is the starting point.

    But Petrosillo speculates that John Paul will name 28 cardinals -- 25 to fill the openings that now exist, and three more to replace cardinals currently under age 80 who will turn 80 during the course of the year 2001. (Since three cardinals will reach retirement age this year, if 28 cardinals are named, the total number would be above 120 for at least a few months. However, the Casa S. Marta inside Vatican City, which is to house Conclave participants, has sleeping room for only 120!)

    The Pope will name only 25 new cardinals if he decides to stick to the traditional limit of 120 cardinal electors (cardinals under the age of 80 -- the only cardinals allowed to vote in a papal Conclave).

    John Paul theoretically could disregard the 120-cardinal limit entirely, and surprise everyone by naming as many as 40 or more cardinals, increasing the number of voting cardinals to the unprecedented level of 135 or more.

    But, though this is not regarded as an impossible outcome (since John Paul has often broken with previous tradition, and especially because there are so many suitable candidates) it is not thought likely.

    Competitors for the largest slice of the upcoming Consistory are the Roman Curia and Latin America -- both hoping for about 15 places.

    Three curial officials are regarded as certain to be chosen:

  • (1) the recently appointed Bishops' Congregation Prefect Giovanni Battista Re
  • (2) the Saints' Congregation Prefect Jose Saraiva Martins
  • (3) the Catholic Education Prefect Zenon Grocholewski

        There are at least 10 other heads of Curia departments who have strong credentials to receive a "red hat":

  • (4) Patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud (the new Oriental Churches Prefect)
  • (5) Francesco Marchisano (Sacred Archeology)
  • (6) Agostino Cacciavillan (formerly nuncio in the United States, now in charge of the Vatican's treasury department, APSA)
  • (7) Sergio Sebastiani (Economic Affairs)
  • (8) Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (Justice and Peace)
  • (9) Jorge Mejia (Vatican Librarian and Archivist)
  • (10) Julian Herranz (Legislative Texts)
  • (11) Mario Pompedda (Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature)
  • (12) John Foley (Social Communications)
  • (13) Javier Lozano Barragan (Health Workers).

        In Latin America, there are at least a dozen strong candidates -- Argentina alone has four or five -- but these eight are considered the most likely:

  • (14) in Venezuela, Ignacio Antonio Velasco Garcia (Caracas)
  • (15) in Brazil, Geraldo Majella Agnelo (Sao Salvador da Bahia)
  • (16) and Claudio Hummes (Sao Paolo)
  • (17) in Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. (Buenos Aires)
  • (18) in Chile, Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa (Santiago)
  • (19) in Colombia, Pedro Rubiano Saenz (Bogota)
  • (20) in Peru, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne (Lima)
  • (21) in Honduras, Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga (Tegucigalpa).

        If the Pope chose all 21 of these names, he would have only four spots open for the rest of the world -- if he holds to the ceiling of 120.

        But in North America, Europe, Afria and Asia there are at least two dozen strong candidates from traditionally "cardinalatial" sees presently without a cardinal and from emerging sees in countries the Holy See would like to recognize by creating a cardinal from that country.

    The following list includes only 21 of the possible choices: three in the US:

  • (22) Edward M. Egan (New York)
  • (23) Theodore Edgar McCarrick (newly appointed to Washington D.C.)
  • (24) Justin F. Rigali (St. Louis)

    eight in Europe:

  • (25) in Ireland Sean Brady (Armagh)
  • (26) and Desmond Connell (Dublin)
  • (27) in England, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (Westminster)
  • (28) in France, Louis-Marie Bille (Lyons)
  • (29) in Portugal, Jose da Cruz Policarpo (Lisbon)
  • (30) in Spain, Francisco Alvarez Martinez (Toledo)
  • (31) in Italy, Severino Poletto (Turin)
  • (32) in Croatia, Josip Bozanic (Zagreb);

    five in Africa:

  • (33) in the Ivory Coast, Bernard Agre (Abidjan)
  • (34) in Kenya, Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki (Nairobi)
  • (35) in the Sudan, Gabriel Zubeir Wako (Khartoum)
  • (36) in Algeria, Henri Teissier (Algiers)
  • (37) in the Congo, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya (Kisangani)

    and three in Asia:

  • (38) in South Korea, Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk (Seoul)
  • (39) in India, Ivan Dias (Bombay)
  • (40) at least one Chinese cardinal, possibly chosen in pectore.


  • (41) Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah.
    This outspoken Palestinian Patriarch of Jerusalem is considered a possibility (though choosing him might irritate the Israeli government), as is
  • (42) the Pope's personal secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz

        (Some have suggested Dziwisz will be made a cardinal along with the personal secretaries of John XXIII and Paul VI, Loris Capovilla and Pasquale Macchi, both of whom are now past 80).

        These 42 names do not include

  • (43) Bishop Crescenzio Sepe, who had a high profile during the Jubilee Year as Secretary General of the Central Jubilee Committee and is now expected to take over a major Vatican post on the cardinalatial level. And then there are the papal ambassadors to the United Nations and to Italy,
  • (44) Renato Martino and
  • (45) Andrea Cordero di Montezemolo.
    Both men are thought to have a strong possibility to be chosen.

        And these 45 names by no means exhaust the possibilities. In fact, it is almost certain that John Paul and his advisors will find 10 or 15 men not mentioned on this list to honor with a red cardinal's hat.

        Nor does the list include the names of those already 80 years old. John Paul has usually chosen several leading theologians and exemplary pastors who are above age 80 in recognition of their lifetime of work. It is thought that Father Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation movement, might be one of these.

        The Italian and world press is awaiting the upcoming consistory with great anticipation, as the new cardinals will be influential decision makers in a possible conclave -- and potential "papabili" themselves.

        But, since, as we have seen, the cardinal candidates far outnumber the positions available, there are bound to be many disappointments -- and some surprises as well.

          The above is special to this publication from INSIDE THE VATICAN. Inside the Vatican is an excellent monthly magazine which covers Vatican affairs and world events from the perspective of Rome. With its main editorial offices in Rome and correspondents around the world, Inside the Vatican aims to give a balanced and objective account of Church and world affairs; it is not an official Vatican publication.

    For other news stories, see

    January 12, 2001
    volume 12, no. 12
    News from the Vatican

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