POPE Francis will create new cardinals on February 14, following a two-day meeting of the world’s cardinals that will discuss reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, among other issues.
The Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi made the announcement on yesterday (December 11). The names of the new cardinals were likely to be announced in mid-January, he said.
If Pope Francis respects the limit of 120 cardinals under the age of 80 and, therefore, eligible to vote for a pope, he will have 10 such openings in February.
As of December 11, the College of Cardinals had 208 members, 112 of whom were under 80. Retired Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta will turn 80 on December 20 and Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo has his 80th birthday on January 3.
On the same occasion, Pope Francis may also follow precedent by creating a number of cardinals over the age of 80, Church men being honoured for their contributions to theology or other service to the Church.
In accordance with recent tradition, the Pope will bestow red hats on the new cardinals on February 14 and then celebrate Mass with them in St Peter’s Basilica the next day.
His creation of new cardinals will follow a consistory or meeting of the entire College of Cardinals on February 12 and 13. In February 2014, the Pope called such a meeting to discuss the theme of the family, as part of the preparation for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the subject held in October.
Fr Lombardi said the theme for the next consistory had not been set yet but the Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on reform of the Vatican bureaucracy would brief their fellow cardinals on their progress in drafting a new constitution for the Church’s central administration, the Roman Curia.
The spokesman echoed a recent statement by the Pope that the reform process was moving slowly, and would not be completed before 2016.
The nine-member council, known as the C9, will meet for its usual bimonthly session from February 9-11. Its previous meeting took place from December 9-11.
The cardinals’ meetings will come on the heels of a meeting of the papal Commission for the Protection of Minors, which co-ordinates the Church’s efforts to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
The commission, which is headed by United States Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, has nine members, including its secretary, Fr Robert Oliver, of the United States. Fr Lombardi said the membership would have doubled to 18 by the February meeting, in an effort to expand representation beyond Europe and North America. The names of the nine new members have not been published.