VATICAN CITY — One by one 11 senior Churchmen, including two U.S. citizens — Cardinals Wilton D. Gregory of Washington and Silvano M. Tomasi, a former Vatican diplomat — knelt before Pope Francis to receive their red hats, a cardinal’s ring and a scroll formally declaring their new status and assigning them a “titular” church in Rome.
But with the consistory Nov. 28 occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis actually created 13 new cardinals.
Cardinals Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, Philippines, and Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of Brunei, did not attend the consistory because of COVID-19 travel restrictions; however, they are officially cardinals and will receive their birettas and rings at a later date, the Vatican said.
In his homily at the prayer service, Pope Francis told the new cardinals that “the scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ‘eminence,’” the traditional title of respect for a cardinal.
If that happens, he said, “you will no longer be a pastor close to your people. You will think of yourself only as ‘His Eminence.’ If you feel that, you are off the path.”
For the cardinals, the pope said, the red must symbolize a wholehearted following of Jesus, who willingly gave His life on the cross to save humanity.
The Gospel reading at the service, Mark 10:32-45, included the account of James and John asking Jesus for special honors. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left,” they said. But Jesus reproaches them.
According to canon law, cardinals are created when their names are made public “in the presence of the College of Cardinals.” While many Rome-based cardinals attended the consistory, more members of the college were “present” online.
The pandemic also meant the gathering was unusually small; each cardinal was accompanied by a priest-secretary and could invite a handful of guests, so there were only about 100 people in the congregation at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In addition to some Rome-based cardinals, the congregation at the consistory included the pastors or rectors of the 13 Rome churches to which the new cardinals were associated. Cardinals are given a “titular” church in Rome, formally making them members of the Rome diocesan clergy, which is what the Church’s first cardinals were.
Cardinal Gregory’s titular church is Immaculate Conception parish on the ancient Via Flaminia in the Grottarossa neighborhood of northern Rome. The church was built in 1935 and became a titular church for cardinals in 1985.
Cardinal Tomasi’s titular church is the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Prison, a 12th-century church with a 16th-century facade built on the site of an earlier church that was constructed over the ruins of an ancient temple.
Cardinal Gregory, like the other new cardinals coming from outside Europe, was tested for COVID-19 before flying to Rome and again upon arrival. Even after testing negative, he and the others were required to quarantine for 10 days and were tested again immediately before the consistory.
With the consistory the College of Cardinals now has 229 members, 128 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to enter a conclave to elect a new pope. Pope Francis has given the red hat to 57% of electors.
With Cardinals Gregory and Tomasi, who was born in Italy but is a U.S. citizen, the number of U.S. cardinals rose to 16; nine of them are cardinal electors.
Joy at elevation of first African-American cardinal
WASHINGTON — To Father Robert Boxie III, the Catholic chaplain at Howard University in Washington, the naming of Washington’s archbishop “as a cardinal is huge, it’s historic.”
A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Father Boxie was ordained in 2016 and began serving this summer as the chaplain at Howard, one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities.
“This is a long time coming. We will be witnessing and experiencing something in the Church that has never happened before, an African American cardinal. In the Church’s 2,000 years this has never happened, and we have the great gift, the great privilege to witness this,” Father Boxie said.
Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr., president of the National Black Catholic Congress, said Cardinal Gregory’s elevation “is significant because there’s so many different firsts” for the churchman.
He’s the first Black archbishop in Washington, “the seat of democratic power and importance in the world,” said Bishop Campbell, who also is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Largo, in Largo, Maryland, and now “to be named a cardinal, the first Black cardinal from the United States — that’s significant.”
New cardinals created at the consistory Nov. 28
• Mario Grech of Malta, 63.
• Marcello Semeraro, an Italian who is prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, 72.
• Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda, 62.
• Wilton Gregory of Washington, 72.
• Jose Advincula of Capiz, Philippines, 68.
• Celestino Aos Braco of Santiago, Chile, 75.
• Cornelius Sim of Brunei, 69.
• Paolo Lojudice of Siena, Italy, 56.
• Mauro Gambetti, custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi in Assisi, 55.
• Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of Mexico, 80.
• Silvano Tomasi, former Vatican diplomat, 80.
• Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, 86.
• Enrico Feroci, 80, former director of Rome’s Caritas.