By Catholic News Agency
Pope Francis made an unexpected change Tuesday in the structure of
the College of Cardinals, adding some curial officials to the rank of
“cardinal bishops,” the highest rank within the college.
The College of Cardinals is structured in three orders, or ranks: the
order of “cardinal deacons,” the order of “cardinal priests,” and the
order of “cardinal bishops.”
There are customarily six cardinal bishops from the Latin Church, who
are given a particular ceremonial title as the “titular bishops” of
Rome’s ancient suburbicarian sees. The dean of the College of Cardinals
is also assigned as titular bishop of the Roman see of Ostia.
Eastern Catholic patriarchs who are cardinals are also cardinal bishops.
Though, in modern times, cardinal bishops do not actually govern the
suburban dioceses in the vicinity of Rome, the custom of corresponding
the rank of cardinal bishop to those dioceses is ancient.
The pope’s new appointments break with that custom, which is established
in canon law, as he has appointed cardinal bishops who will not be
ceremonially connected to those suburbicarian sees. In fact, those sees
already have titular bishops, each of whom is a cardinal bishop over the
age of 80, the age at which cardinals are no longer eligible to vote in
the conclave that elects a pope.
Those elevated to the rank of cardinal bishop are Cardinal Pietro
Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect
of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; Cardinal Marc Ouellet,
prefect for the Congregation of Bishops; Cardinal Fernando Filoni,
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People.
Among these new cardinal bishops, Cardinal Filoni was until now a cardinal deacon, while the others were all cardinal priests.
The Pope’s June 26 rescript says that popes have “always looked with
fraternal fondness to the College of Cardinals,” as they “offer a
particular support to the mission of the Successor of Peter, bearing the
valuable contribution of their experience and of their service to the
particular Churches spread all over the world.”
The rescript then noted that “in the last decades” the College of
Cardinals has expanded, thus increasing the number of cardinal priests
and deacons, while the number of cardinal bishops has stayed untouched
with time, and so the pope made the decision to expand that group.
The decision derogates from canons 350 and 352 of the Code of Canon Law, and will come into effect since the next June 28.
All three ranks within the College of Cardinals have ancient historical
roots. Cardinal deacons were anciently entrusted with the administration
of the six offices of the Lateran Palace (the See of the Bishop of
Rome, the Pope) and of the the seven departments of Rome, including care
for poor. After Pope Sixtus V, they became 14, two for departments, and
were given a “deaconry” of administration, that is, a church in Rome
for which they were responsible.
The cardinal priests were those entrusted with the care of the most
ancient Churches in Rome, called “titles,” and are by tradition
connected with a Roman parish. After ten full years as a cardinal
deacon,”a cardinal can “opt” to become a cardinal priest.
There were originally seven cardinal bishops, the bishops of Rome’s suburbicarian sees.
The present cardinal bishops, in addition those named today, are
Tarcisio Bertone (Frascati), José Saraiva Martins (Palestrina), Roger
Etchegaray (Porto Santa Rufina), Giovanni Battista Re (Poggio Mirteto)
and Francis Arinze (Velletri-Segni).
Cardinal Patriarchs of Eastern Catholic Churches, who are also cardinal
bishops are Patriarch Bechara-Boutros Rai, of Antioch of the Maronites;
Patriarch Pierre Sfeir, emeritus of Antioch of Maronites; Patriarch
Antonios Naguib, emeritus of Alexandria of the Coptics.
Cardinal-Elect Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the
Chaldeans, will be added to the list after the June 28 consistory.
The Pope choose to expand the rank of cardinal bishop to include the
prefects of some Vatican offices, although some notable prefects are
missing from the list.
Some have speculated that Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria is likely to be
appointed to the order of cardinal-bishop, as is as Cardinal-elect
Konrad Krajewski, Papal Almoner.
In a recent interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said: “It think there
are two long arms of the pope - that of being custodian of the faith,
and there the work is done by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, and the prefect has to be a cardinal, and the other long arm of
the pope is the almoner, and there must be a cardinal there. These are
the two long arms of the pope - faith and charity.”
Another rescript will be needed if the Pope wants to derogate again from
the norms of canon law, in order to include other cardinals in the rank
Far from being just honorific titles, the ranks of cardinals give them specific obligations.
For example, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, elected from among
the cardinal bishops, presides at the conclave for the election of the
pope. The Dean has also the responsibility to communicate the pope’s
death to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and to the
heads of nations, he represents the Holy See during the sede vacante,
and he is the one who asks the pope-elect if he accepts the election,
and what name he will take.
If the new pope is not a bishop, the Dean has the right to ordain him.
If the Dean is older than 80, and so not eligible to take part in the
conclave, the senior cardinal bishop presides over the conclave.