– Catholic Herald, Rome – Pope Francis created eleven Cardinals in Rome on Saturday afternoon, telling the new Princes of the Church, “The scarlet of a Cardinal’s robes, which is the colour of blood, can, for a worldly spirit,” and warning them to be “always ‘on the road’,” else they shall go off it.
Of the eleven who received the red hat from Pope Francis on Saturday, seven were under eighty years of age and are therefore Cardinal-electors: Archbishop Mario Grech, recently appointed Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops; Archbishop Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda; Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC; Archbishop Celestino Aos Braco of Santiago de Chile; Archbishop Paolo Lojudice of Siena, Italy; Fra Mauro Gambetti OFM Conv, Custos of the Holy Convent of Assisi.
The ceremony – a “consistory” in Church-speak, from an old French word derived from consistorium, a Latin term for a waiting room that came to stand for the assembly or body that met in it – took place in St Peter’s Basilica, and was the seventh of Francis’s pontificate.
A quieter affair this time around, the “session” had a reduced presence of both faithful and the media. This was owing to the restrictions in place to discourage the spread of novel coronavirus.
Two other men slated to receive the red hat were not able to make the trip, in fact, due to travel restrictions: Apostolic Vicar of Brunei, Cornelius Sim; and the Archbishop of Capiz in the Philippines, Jose F. Advincula. They participated remotely via video link. The Press Office of the Holy See explained that they will receive their titles and the insignia of their new rank “at another time to be determined.”
Four men above the age of eighty received the red hat in recognition of their many years of meritorious service: Archbishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, emeritus of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico; Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a long-time diplomat; Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap., long-serving Preacher of the Papal Household; Msgr Enrico Feroci, parish priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love (La Madonna del Divino Amore) in Rome.
In his homily, Francis spoke of the risks of corruption priestly life presents, and encouraged the new Cardinals to keep closely to the path the Lord has marked out and trod for all. “Only the Lord,” say Pope Francis, “through his cross and resurrection, can save his straying friends who risk getting lost.”
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, became on Saturday the first Black American to receive the red hat.
“Among the people that have congratulated me and wished me well,” he said during a videoconference interview reported in The Washington Post, “I’ve heard this: It’s about time.” He called the honour “an important recognition that the African American, the Black Catholic community, is an important component within the larger, universal church,” and said he hopes he will be “[a] voice for the African American community in the pope’s ear.”
With Saturday’s consistory, there are now one hundred twenty-eight Cardinal-electors eligible to vote in the next conclave to elect a pope. Pope Francis has named seventy-three of them, a significant majority. The College of Cardinals, however, has not met in full since 2015.