(Rome) Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals during an extraordinary consistory on Saturday 27 August. For the first time in recent Church history, a cardinal uprising took place in midsummer. Francis suggested role models for the new wearers of the purple.
Three months ago, the head of the Church had unexpectedly announced a renewed expansion of the College of Cardinals, although the electoral body had not yet needed to be filled up. The maximum number of papal electors was expanded by Paul VI., but at the same time fixed at 120 cardinals. This number is now significantly exceeded.
More unusual was that Francis scheduled the consistory for the creation of cardinals in midsummer, fueling two kinds of speculation: his possible resignation or plans for renewed corona restrictions in the winter half-year (or concerns about such) that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the College of Cardinals to meet.
All the cardinals-elect were present in Rome on Saturday, including Msgr Richard Kuuia Baawobr, the unknown bishop of Wa in Ghana. It was still possible for him to get there, but then he suffered a fainting spell, "something with the heart," said Francis, which is why his creation will only take place soon. A date for this has not yet been given.
In his homily, Francis named two deceased confreres as role models for the cardinals to aspire to - two quite contrasting churchmen: Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli (1914-1998) and Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân (1928-2002), Archbishop of Saigon in Vietnam.
Cardinal Casaroli, as the Vatican's top diplomat, was responsible for the controversial "Ostpolitik" towards the communist dictatorships. According to the official interpretation, the Holy See thereby eased the fate of the persecuted Church behind the Iron Curtain. However, this had its price: the Church remained silent on Marxism and its real-socialist derivatives. In fact, since John XXIII. a current in the Church, some of which openly sympathized with socialism and strived for the unification of socialism and Christianity.
Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuân, on the other hand, was a victim of communism and was considered one of the "living martyrs". He had to spend thirteen years in a real-socialist prison belonging to his tormentors, from 1975 to 1988, when his release was obtained through diplomatic channels on condition that he go into exile. John Paul II called him to the Roman Curia and made him head of a dicastery.
In his homily, Francis, in connection with Cardinal Casaroli, had Pope John XXIII. mentioned, while in the official text version of the website of the Holy See John Paul II appears. A Freudian slip of the tongue, as some Vaticanists thought with a smile?
How do two such contradictory moments in recent Church history fit together? This question was heard repeatedly over the past weekend. Pope Francis did not ask them, because the relationship to socialism that shaped both figures was not an issue. Cardinal Casaroli was mentioned by Francis because he frequently visited a prison for juvenile delinquents in Rome; Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuân for praying for his jailers. Both cases had pastoral aspects. The reasons and background why Nguyên Van Thuân had "jailer" remained hidden.
"A cardinal loves the Church, always with the same spiritual fire, whether he is concerned with big or small issues, whether he is meeting the great of this world - he must do that, very often - or the little ones who are great before God. I am thinking, for example, of Cardinal Casaroli, justly famous for his open-mindedness, with which he accompanied the new possibilities of Europe after the Cold War with an intelligent and patient dialogue - and God forbid that human short-sightedness should close horizons from him again! But in God's eyes the visits he made regularly to the young inmates of a juvenile prison in Rome, where he was called "Don Agostino," are equally valuable. He practiced great diplomacy - the martyrdom of patience, such was his life - and at the same time he visited the youth of Casal del Marmo weekly. And how many such examples could be cited! I remember Cardinal Van Thuân, who in another significant historical context of the 20th century was called to shepherd the people of God and at the same time inspired by the fire of Christ's love to care for the soul of the jailer who guarded his cell door. These people were not afraid of the "big", of the "maximum", but they also got involved with the everyday "small". After a meeting where Cardinal Casaroli reported to John Paul II on his last mission - I don't know, whether in Slovakia or in the Czech Republic, one of these countries, it was a question of high politics – the Pope called him on leaving and said: “Ah, monsignor, one more thing: do you keep going to these young prisoners?” – “Yes ’ – ‘Never leave them!’. The great diplomacy and the small pastoral matter. That is the heart of a priest, the heart of a cardinal.”
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image : Vatican.va (screenshot)
Trans: Tancred email@example.com