Cardinals, For What?

cardinalMuch discussion online and elsewhere about the Church’s new crop of cardinals. Pope Francis has suggested a new tone, if not redefined the role:

The cardinalship does not imply promotion; it is neither an honor nor a decoration; it is simply a service that requires you to broaden your gaze and open your hearts. And, although this may appear paradoxical, the ability to look further and to love more universally with greater intensity may be acquired only by following the same path of the Lord: the path of self-effacement and humility, taking on the role of a servant.

Simply a service, and one to be found in the example of Jesus (cf. John 13, Phil 2:5-11).

A ministry colleague and I were chatting the other day. He was speaking of the expectation of places like Venice–I suppose the archbishop and the people–that a red hat would be forthcoming,  not just for one prelate, but for someone who might be a future pope. I wondered if I heard that reflection right: Is being a bishop in a see like Milan more about being a papabile, and less about being a pastor for that particular church?

So a cardinal’s role just a stepping stone. Like the field-of-68 in the NCAA event. According to the Bishop of Rome, no longer an honor.

Cardinals elect a pope. That’s the most high-profile work they do. Is Pope Francis setting things up for a selection of the next pope more from the periphery? His words seem more aligned with service than voting. But we observers think about voting, certainly.

You may know of the tradition of a cardinal appointed in pectore, in secret for reasons of safety and security. I was thinking of the importance of voting, and what if the conclave were to have a few surprises. “Hidden” cardinals lose their office on the death of a pope. Too bad a pope couldn’t designated a few people for voting–non-cardinals–who would have that perspective of the peripheries, perhaps. What would you think if you got an invitation to the next conclave?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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