Nov. 24 consistory won’t be one for the record books

VATICAN CITY — Setting a Vatican record today isn’t easy. It took only a few minutes Oct. 24 to find out that the Nov. 24 consistory for the creation of cardinals will not set a record for being the smallest consistory.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

Only six prelates are scheduled to receive their red hats in late November: U.S. Archbishop James M. Harvey, 63, prefect of the papal household; Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Indian Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55.

As we reported in our announcement story, Pope Benedict himself was created a cardinal at a smaller consistory. In 1977, the then-archbishop of Munich and Freising was one of four cardinals created.

But many people thought perhaps Pope Benedict would go down in history as the first pope to hold a consistory at which no Europeans were created cardinals.

However, that’s not true either. In 1924, Pope Pius XI held a consistory and created only two cardinals and both were from the United States: Cardinals George W. Mundelein of Chicago and Patrick J. Hayes of New York.

3 Responses

  1. A quick check of Salvador Miranda’s website devoted to this subject will show that many pontiffs in earlier centuries often created but two or three cardinals at a time.

  2. I am surprised at CNS’s ineptitude here. For the record:

    NO CURIAL PRELATE, for the first time since the consistory of July 15, 1929 (as Prefect of the Papal Household, Cardinal-elect Harvey is not a member of the Roman Curia, although he was recruited from it);
    NO ITALIAN, for the first time since the consistory of December 19, 1927, and;
    NO EUROPEAN, for the first time since March 24, 1924.

    The first of Pope Pius XI’s two consistories of 1929, on July 15, saw the elevation of only one prelate to the Sacred College: Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster OSB, Archbishop of Milan. He was to become the first Italian Bishop who, under the terms of the Lateran Pact, had to swear loyalty to the State of Italy, then headed by King Vittorio Emmanuele III. So this was in many ways an exceptional consistory.
    But having a one-man consistory was, up until the Pontificate of the restorer of our Scottish Catholic Episcopal Hierarchy, Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), in no way exceptional. His sole such consistory was held on December 30, 1889. (Cardinal Vannutelli would later be nominated by Pope St Pius X as his Papal Legate to the consecration of St Patrick’s cathedral, Armagh, celebrated on 24 July 1904.) Leo’s successor, Pope St Pius X, also held only one such consistory, on December 2, 1912. (Cardinal Károl Hornig later earned a place in the history books, and not just ecclesiastical ones, when on December 30, 1916, he crowned King Károl I, last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, Queen Zita; both of their Royal Highnesses were genuinely devout Catholics).
    Nor was having two consistories in the one year exceptional. Leo did so seven times (in 1889 he held three). Pius X did so only once, but Pius XI did so three times. Thereafter, up until now, that practice ceased.
    In general, up to and including the first quarter of the 20th century, consistories were more frequent, but smaller. However, large ones did occur. For example in February 1801 Pius VII created 24 new cardinals and in March 1816, 31, but these were very much exceptions. Perhaps in the current economic climate Pope Benedict wishes to return to the practice of having smaller but more frequent consistories.
    “The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church”, Salvador MIranda’s wonderful website which The Library of Congress has included in its MINERVA Web Preservation Project, might be found helpful even by the supposed experts onf CNS.

  3. Actually, their “Imperial Majesties” if you please.

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