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February 18, 2005
Vol. 4, No. 22

John L. Allen Jr.


If there is a consistory in 2005, and if the nominations hold to form, it would be difficult to argue that John Paul II is trying to shape the politics of the next papal election in any particular direction.

Looking ahead to a consistory and an election; Israelis and Palestinians to meet pope officially and together; The last of the Fatima visionaries; Cardinal Law's Lenten preaching


Now that the papal health crisis has more or less passed, and after the Lenten Retreat this week is over, the Vatican can get back to normal business. One open question is whether there will be a consistory for the creation of new cardinals later this year, perhaps on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, one of the two traditional dates on which consistories are usually held (the other being Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter).

The logic would be that we're now down to 119 cardinals under the age of 80, and hence eligible to vote in a papal election. (This after Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz of Poland recently acknowledged being 81 instead of 76; he lied about his age as a young man to avoid conscription in the Red Army in Lithuania). In March, two more cardinals cross the 80-year-old threshold: Antonio José González Zumárraga of Ecuador and Alexandre do Nascimento of Angola. Two more, Francisco Álvarez Martínez of Spain and Marco Cé of Italy, turn 80 in July. Hence just after June 29, the College of Cardinals would be at 115 electors, below the 120 that's normally considered a full complement.

Moreover, there are plenty of candidates waiting in line in both dioceses and senior positions in the Roman Curia that normally come with a cardinal's "red hat."

An argument against a consistory in 2005 is that John Paul has held nine consistories over the course of his 26-year pontificate, meaning one roughly every 2.8 years. In June, it will only have been 20 months since the last one in October 2003, so it's arguably premature. Further, some suggest that given the pope's still-unstable health, it's unwise to be contemplating a move as significant as the creation of new cardinals right now. Others wonder whether these picks would truly be the pope's in any event, given his flagging energy.

In response, it should be noted that many said similar things in October 2003, and that did not deter John Paul II from moving head.

Herewith a list of the cardinalabili, if there is indeed a consistory in 2005, organized into those who seem probable, middle-of-the-pack possibilities, and long-shots, plus a category of "ones to watch," meaning improbable appointments that would signal something interesting.


  1. Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, 59, Polish, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
  2. Archbishop Franc Rodé, 70, Slovenian, Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  3. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, 67, English, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue
  4. Archbishop Angelo Comastri, 61, Italian, Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica and Vicar General for the Vatican City-State
  5. Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 57, Brasilia, Brazil
  6. Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis, 68, Aparecida, Brazil
  7. Archbishop Antonio Cañizares Llovera, 59, Toledo, Spain
  8. Archbishop Raúl Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, 71, Quito, Ecuador
  9. Archbishop Henri Antoine Marie Teissier, 75, Alger, Algeria
  10. Archbishop Henryk Muszynski, 71, Gniezno, Poland
  11. Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker, 56, Paderborn, Germany
  12. Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois, 62, Paris, France
  13. Archbishop Carlo Caffarra, 66, Bologna, Italy
  14. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, 59, Dublin, Ireland, or Archbishop Sean Brady, 65, Armagh, Ireland
  15. Archbishop Sean O'Malley, 60, Boston, United States
  16. Archbishop Lluís Martínez Sistach, 67, Barcelona, Spain


  1. Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, 54, Croatia, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops
  2. Archbishop Agostino Vallini, 64, Italian, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
  3. Archbishop Jean-Pierre Bernard Ricard, 60, Bordeaux, France
  4. Archbishop Gaudencio Borbon Rosales, 72, Manila, Philippines
  5. Archbishop Evarist Pinto, 71, Karachi, Pakistan
  6. Archbishop Jean-Charles Marie Descubes, 65, Rouen, France
  7. Archbishop Marian Golebiewski, 67, Wroclaw, Poland
  8. Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho, 71, Olinda e Recife, Brazil
  9. Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada, 63, Tokyo, Japan
  10. Archbishop Emile Marcus, 74, Toulouse, France
  11. Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, 50, Belo Horizonte, Brazil


  1. Archbishop Raffaello Funghini, 76, Italian, Prefect emeritus, Roman Rota
  2. Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, 70, German, President of Cor Unum
  3. Archbishop John Foley, American, 69, President of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications
  4. Archbishop José Luis Chávez Botello, 64, Antequera, Mexico
  5. Archbishop Théodore-Adrien Sarr, 68, Dakar, Senegal
  6. Archbishop Alojzij Uran, 60, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  7. Archbishop Dadeus Grings, 68, Porto Alegre, Brazil
  8. Archbishop François de Sales Marie Adrien Saint-Macary, 69, Rennes, France

Ones to Watch

  1. Archbishop Michel Sabbah, 71, Jerusalem
  2. Archbishop Raymond Burke, 57, St. Louis, United States
  3. Archbishop Emmanuel III (Emmanuel-Karim) Delly, 77, Baghdad, Iraq
  4. Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 73, Hong Kong, China
  5. Archbishop José Horacio Gómez, 53, San Antonio, United States
  6. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, 57, Atlanta, United States

* * *

In terms of the "ones to watch," several notes are in order.

Sabbah has been on short lists for recent consistories, on the grounds that it would be in character for John Paul II to give a "shot in the arm" to a small and struggling church by elevating their leader to the College of Cardinals, in effect a way of saying that the pope has not forgotten about them. Christians in the Holy Land find themselves squeezed by the upheaval of the intifadah, economic stagnation, and a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Christian out-migration has accelerated, with the nightmare scenario being that one day the land of Christ's birth will be almost empty of Christians. In that context, some believe, a cardinal would be powerful symbolism that there's a future for Arab Christianity, and the red hat might also give Sabbah a bit more leverage in his dealings with both the Israelis and the Palestinian National Authority.

On the other hand, some say Sabbah is a bit too uncritically identified with the Palestinian cause, in the manner of many Arab Christians who compensate for their minority status by stressing their loyalty to Arab nationalist causes, especially opposition to the Israelis. In that sense, his elevation to the College of Cardinals would inevitably be seen as a political gesture by the Holy See.

The elevation of Delly would have a similar significance in light of the Holy See's concern for the future of Iraq's Christian minority under what is likely to be a Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government. The special wrinkle in this case is that Delly is the Patriarch of the Chaldean Christians, one of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, and some Eastern Catholics object to the idea of a patriarch becoming a cardinal, which they regard as an institution of the Western church (a "cardinal" originally meant a member of the Roman clergy). This has not stopped several Eastern hierarchs from becoming cardinals, however, such as Lubomyr Husar of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine or Ignace Moussa I Daoud of the Syrian church, currently Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Yet another local church that might benefit from having a cardinal as its head would be the Chinese Catholics, split between a "Patriotic" church seen as subservient to the Chinese government and an "underground" church staunchly loyal to Rome. Zen's predecessor, John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung, was named a cardinal on that basis. Yet Zen is seen as more pugnacious in his relationship with the Chinese Communists, and given the Holy See's strong interest in normalizing relations with Beijing, his elevation might bring unwanted diplomatic consequences.

The three Americans "to watch" are all from dioceses not generally seen as "red hat" sees, but the elevation of any one of them would be interpreted as an interesting signal of approval for one or another faction in the American church. Burke is the figure most identified with a strong stand against pro-choice Catholic politicians, and his elevation would be seen as a clear Vatican endorsement of that stance. Gregory was the architect of the church's response to the sexual abuse scandals in the United States, and his elevation would be read as backing for the American church in a time of crisis. Gomez, meanwhile, heads an American diocese with one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country. Moreover, because Gomez is a member of Opus Dei, it would be seen as a tacit form of support for Opus Dei, giving the controversial group its third cardinal (the other two are Julian Herranz, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, and Juan-Luis Cipriani of Lima, Peru).

* * *

What is most significant about a consistory is that it reshapes the politics of the next papal election, by adding new electors and, at least theoretically, new candidates.

Perhaps the lone new papal frontrunner is Comastri, who has been in charge of Italy's main Marian sanctuary in Loreto since 1996. Comastri is known as a smiling, deeply spiritual man, who won high marks for the Lenten retreat he preached for John Paul II and the Roman Curia two years ago. He's written more than 20 books on spiritual themes, and considers himself a "spiritual son" of Mother Teresa. His most recent pastoral letter on the Eucharist is expected to be a point of reference for this October's Synod of Bishops. One reservation about Comastri is his health, since he was struck by a grave cardiac illness in 1994, though he apparently made a full recovery. Another question mark is whether he has the administrative toughness and seasoning to handle the governance challenges that John Paul's successor will inherit.

In terms of the overall effect on the political makeup of the College of Cardinals, if John Paul were to name all 16 of the probable candidates listed above, there would not appear to be a strong gain for any one faction. If Martin rather than Brady gets the nod in Ireland, he and Fitzgerald would provide two strong new voices for the "Reform Party" view in the college, meaning cardinals of a moderate theological outlook who want to continue the reforms of the church associated with the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Muszynski is also seen as part of the reform wing of the Polish church, and is especially known for his interest in Christian-Jewish dialogue; he bucked Polish Catholic traditionalists by opposing the erecting of crosses at Auschwitz in 1998. Bráz de Aviz and Damasceno Assis, the two Brazilians, plus Ecuador's Vela Chiriboga, would join the "Social Justice Party," cardinals concerned with the church's witness in the broader world, especially on issues of economic justice and human rights.

Cañizares Llovera of Toledo in Spain would add a strong voice to the "Border Patrol," cardinals concerned with protecting Catholic identity in a secularized, relativistic world. He's one of the more theologically sophisticated Spanish cardinals, and has sometimes been mentioned as a possible successor of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Rylko, the Pole at the Council for the Laity, would also be a "Border Patrol" cardinal. Caffarra from Bologna would become a leading figure among the "Integralists," cardinals who want to see the church's teaching on cultural issues, especially sexual morality, written into the civil law.

Thinking in terms of geography rather than positions on issues, the 16 probable candidates seem to give more or less an equal boost to the two leading regional theories, the Latin American hypothesis and the Italian hypothesis. The Latin Americans would get at least three new cardinals, the Italians two, one of which, Comastri, emerges as papabile. The Brazilians will be especially piqued if the next consistory does not yield at least a couple of new Brazilian cardinals, since they are the largest Catholic country in the world and only have eight cardinals, with just four under 80. The United States, by way of contrast, has 13 cardinals and 11 electors.

If there is a consistory in 2005, and if the nominations hold to form, it would be difficult to argue that John Paul II is trying to shape the politics of the next papal election in any particular direction.

* * *

The Ministers of Tourism for Israel and the Palestinian National Authority are scheduled for a joint private audience with Pope John Paul II on Friday, Feb. 25. It will be the first time that officials from Israel and the Palestinian Authority have met the pope simultaneously, and will undoubtedly be taken as another sign of a thaw in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

The audience is to take place at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25, to be followed be a midday joint press conference near the Vatican. According to Israeli sources, the two figures -- Israeli Tourism Minister Avraham Hirshson and his Palestinian counterpart, Mitri Abu-Ita -- will not meet with anyone from the Vatican's Secretariat of State, since this is not, properly speaking, a diplomatic mission.

The two ministers are coming to Rome in large part to ask Christians to resume pilgrimages to the Holy Land, assuring them that the two sides are cooperating to assure tourists safe access to the Holy Sites and easy movement back-and-forth across borders. Due to the violence associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tourism to the region has been in decline for years. As one indicator of that reality, the number of American tourists visiting Israel in 2000, just before the second intifadah, was 539,512, according to TravelAge magazine. In 2003, it was 294,672, a decline of almost 50 percent. A "photo op" with the pope is thus seen by both sides as an ideal way to lure potential Christian visitors.

The Feb. 25 appointment is a positive indication of something else as well, which is that Vatican aides expect the pope to be in good enough shape next week to receive visitors. Israeli sources said that Vatican protocol officers didn't couch the appointment in conditional terms, but gave the impression that the pope would be able to be present. That suggests confidence about how John Paul came through the health crisis of recent days.

Speaking of the Vatican and Israel, negotiations between the two governments to resolve disputes related to implementation of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement resumed Feb. 15-16 in Jerusalem, after a suspension requested by the Israelis. If nothing else, the two sides at least agreed to meet again on March 31 and April 20-21.

Beyond that, versions differ as to what was accomplished. To hear Israeli sources tell it, the February meetings marked a new spirit of common purpose that will lead by a short route to an agreement, and all that remains now is some matters of "wording" that should be resolved by April. Other observers, however, are more dubious, suggesting that there was "no breakthrough" on the differences between the two sides, and that it remains to be seen whether the Israeli government will demonstrate the engagement needed to reach agreement. Some believe that nothing short of an intervention from the Americans will prod the Israelis to take the process seriously.

* * *

In most cases, processes for beatification involve some degree of uncertainty, since one never knows quite how it will go. Every now and then, however, there's a slam-dunk candidate for whom it's only a matter of time. Such was the case with Mother Teresa when she died in 1997, and such is the case again this week with Carmelite Sr. Maria Lucia of Jesus and of the Sacred Heart, better known as Lucia dos Santos, the last of the three visionaries of Fatima, who died last Sunday.

Lucia passed away on the 13th of the month, the same day in May 1917 that, according to the Fatima tradition, the Virgin Mary began appearing to three small children in this remote site in Portugal. It's a spot named after the wife of Ali, the cousin of the prophet Muhammed, and hence a reminder of the Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula. (In some Koranic schools, especially in Shi'ite circles where devotion to Fatima is strong, it's long been believed that Mary, who is also venerated in the Koran, didn't come to Fatima for Christians at all, but for the Muslims).

The other two seers of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta, died in 1919 and 1920, respectively, and were beatified by John Paul II in 2000. Lucia, however, entered a Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, in 1948, where she lived ever since. From there, she handed over to Vatican officials the "Third Secret" of Fatima, a vision of a bishop in white and a hail of gunfire which John Paul II interpreted as a reference to the assassination attempt against him on May 13, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The pope's delegate for Sr. Lucia's funeral, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, who had long meetings with Lucia when he was the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has said that there are no more major revelations waiting in her monastic cell to be disclosed.

There's no question that John Paul II feels a special connection with the Fatima devotion, and with Lucia. It was Fatima where Mary referred to "the errors that Russia will spread in the world," taken by most Catholics as a reference to Soviet Communism. In keeping with Mary's request at Fatima that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, the pope performed a consecration of the whole world at Fatima in 1982, on the anniversary of the assassination attempt. There followed concern that the pope did not do this in concert with the rest of the bishops, as Mary had asked. Hence on March 25, 1984, John Paul repeated the consecration in a ceremony in St. Peter's Square, after having sent letters to all the world's Catholic and Orthodox bishops asking them to join him. The statue of the Virgin from Fatima was brought to Rome for the occasion. Though the pope's text did not specifically mention Russia, at least one observer, the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Alberto Cosme do Amaral, said the pope paused at one point and quietly added "Russia" under his breath. Afterwards, Sr. Lucia apparently told the apostolic nuncio in Portugal that Mary had accepted the consecration, a fact that, in the pope's mind, is not without significance in explaining subsequent events, including the collapse of the Berlin Wall and eventually the Soviet system.

John Paul also credits the Virgin of Fatima with saving his life on May 13, 1981, believing that the flight path of a bullet launched from Mehmet Ali Agca's gun was altered in order to preserve him in office. Without descending into too much pop psychology, this undoubtedly helps to explain why resignation is essentially unthinkable for John Paul -- he believes that his pontificate is part of a much larger cosmic drama, and God and the Virgin are watching. It's up to them, not him, to decide when the time has come.

Of course, to believe that Mary saved the pope's life on May 13, 1981, logically raises the question of why she allowed him to be shot in the first place. His closest aide, personal secretary Archishop Stanislaw Dsizwsz, in a rare public lecture in Poland in 2002 supplied the answer. The pope's blood had to be spilled, Dsizwsz argued, in order to augment his witness against bloodshed in the world, above all with respect to abortion. It has always impressed John Paul and Dsizwsz that the Italian left had scheduled a major abortion rights rally in Rome the evening of May 13, 1981, which was cancelled out of respect for the fallen pope.

If time and health permit, there's no doubt John Paul would like to be the pope who beatifies Sr. Lucia.

Incidentally, Portugal is presently in the middle of national elections, and the center-right government, which most polls project to lose, has declared a "stop" to campaigning out of respect for her funeral. That has triggered charges of political opportunism not only from the center-left opposition, but also from church spokespersons in Lisbon, who say they doubt the "sincerity" of the gesture.

* * *

One of the great Lenten traditions of Rome are the stational Masses, which take place each day in a different church in the city. The practice dates from the fourth century, after the legalization of Christianity, when the pope would visit different churches during Lent to hold a pontifical Mass. The list of station churches grew during the centuries; today, pilgrims who complete the normal cycle will visit 40 churches in 44 days.

English speakers gather for Mass each day at 7 a.m., and typically the congregation is composed of seminarians from the North American College, religious men and women, college students from one of the Roman universities, and a handful of other Americans and English-speakers based in the city. The celebrants generally include priests taking part in the sabbatical program at the North American College, as well as English-speakers who work in the Curia or who teach in Rome. Sometimes Americans who have a special connection to one of the station churches will turn up for that Mass.

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, the station Mass was held at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, is now the arch-priest. Law said the Mass that morning. Since arriving in Rome after resigning in December 2002 at the height of the sex abuse crisis, Law has kept a deliberately low profile in Rome, so this marked one of the few public occasions when he has appeared for an American group.

Law preached on the theme, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart." Lent, he said, is a time to cultivate an "open and attentive" heart, ready to accept God's invitation to conversion. He tied this in to the Old Testament reading for the day from the Book of Jonah, about the surprising way in which the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah's preaching and repented. Given the setting in a basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, he offered Mary as an example of attentiveness and willingness to respond positively to God's will.

Law underwent a back surgery some months ago, and for a brief period of time was confined to a wheelchair. During the opening procession Feb. 16, he walked with a cane, but during the Mass itself he was able to move around the altar, and to kneel and genuflect under his own power. Because the Mass was celebrated in the Pauline Chapel (also known as the "Borghese Chapel" because it contains a slab of the Borghese pope, Paul V), which does not have an altar facing the people, Law celebrated in the ad orientem style, with his back to the congregation.

* * *

Two weeks ago I carried a summary of a talk on church/state relations in the United States given at Santa Croce University, by a Catholic political philosopher from Marquette University named Christopher Wolfe. That report prompted this response from Fr. Richard McBrien of the University of Notre Dame.

Wolfe, according to your report, said that the 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Engel v. Vitale, 'barred prayer in public schools.' That's not true. What Engel v. Vitale barred was the recitation of prayers written by government agencies, in this case the New York Board of Regents. Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice Hugo Black insisted that "the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as part of a religious program carried on by the government."

The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is jallen@natcath.org

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