Expect an announcement on the consistory this week

Rumours abound that a consistory will take place next month. Above: cardinals assemble in St Peter's Basilica in 2007 (Photo: PA)

Be on the look out for an announcement this week regarding a consistory for the creation of new cardinals.

That was the advice I received from an informed source at the Vatican this morning. As with all such speculation, of course, it’s never certain until the official notice. But the rumours of the past few weeks do seem to be accurate, and the expected date of the consistory is likely to be November 20-21 in Rome.

One source excitedly pointed out that apartments near the Vatican are already being readied for the occasion.

The announcement, which is likely to be made either tomorrow or on Wednesday – at the Pope’s weekly general audience – will reveal the names of roughly 20 candidates who will become cardinals next month.

Many of them are likely to be Italians, but about half will be from elsewhere, including at least two of Americans and quite possibly Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, although the Holy Father is likely to stick to tradition and avoid naming a new cardinal in an archdiocese where the retired cardinal-archbishop is still under 80.

According to speculation, many of the names are expected to be Italians because Benedict XVI has appointed a substantial number of them to senior positions (one reporter has pre-announced it as the “Charge of the Italians”). At the moment these include Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, prefect of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, Archpriest of St Paul Outside the Walls, Archbishop Paolo Sardi, Patron of the Knights of Malta, Archbishop Paolo Romeo of Palermo and Archbishop Giuseppe Betori of Florence.

Among the Americans are Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington DC.

From other countries: Swiss Archbishop Kurt Koch, recently appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya (Kinshasa), Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith (Colombo), Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz (Warsaw), Archbishop Reinhard Marx (Munich), Archbishop André-Joseph Leonard (Brussels), Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk (Utrecht) and Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins (Toronto).

The Pope may also appoint some elder distinguished figures of the Church, as he has in the past. According to Italian Vaticanists, these could be Mgr Domenico Bartolucci, Maestro Emeritus of the Sistine Chapel Choir, who is regarded as an admirer, friend and collaborator of Benedict XVI; Bishop Elio Sgreccia, until fairly recently president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the German Mgr Walter Brandmüller of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

Expect a possible surprise or two as well.