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Pope planning major announcements for Thursday consistory?

July 16, 2018

Pope Francis has called an ordinary consistory—a meeting of the cardinals present in Rome—for Thursday, July 19. The announcement has prompted speculation that the Pope may announce key appointments.

Pope Francis is taking a working vacation during the month of July, cutting back on his official appointments. So the scheduling of an ordinary consistory has provoked comment from Vatican-watchers.

The stated purpose of the consistory is to announce a date for the canonization of Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio, an Italian layman of the 19th century who died as a youth. With the cardinals all assembled, however, the Pope could make other announcements.

Among other possibilities, the Holy Father could:

  • Select a cardinal to serve as the camerlengo, the prelate who presides over the day-to-day work of the Holy See after the death or resignation of a Pontiff. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who was appointed camerlengo in December 2014, died earlier this month.
  • Name a prelate to fill the office of sostituto, or deputy Secretary of State: the powerful office that supervises the daily workings of the Roman Curia. Cardinal Giovanni Beccui, who had been sostituto, relinquished that role on June 29 when he became a member of the College of Cardinals; he will soon take a new post as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
  • Choose a new dean and/or vice-dean for the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has been dean since the election of Pope Benedict XVI, is now over 90 years old. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who had been vice-dean, resigned from that post last June, at the age of 94.

The dean and vice-dean of the College of Cardinals are named from among the prelates who hold the rank of cardinal-bishop. Traditionally, the cardinal-bishops have been the titular pastors of the seven churches historically known as Rome’s suburbican sees. Today all seven of the cardinals holding those posts are well beyond retirement age; Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the youngest, at 83.

In June, however, Pope Francis announced that four other cardinals would be “equated” with cardinal-bishops, giving them the same status and dignity “in all respects.” All four are current leaders of the Roman Curia. They are:

  1. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State;
  2. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization;
  3. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and
  4. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

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