The Vatican has released ten minutes ago the names of twenty-two prelates that would be made cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory scheduled next month, and the two newly-appointed Filipino archbishops of cardinalate sees in the Philippines are conspicuously absent on the list.
Archbishop Jose Serofino Palma of Cebu, who was appointed in October 2010, has been bypassed for the second time. It was understandable that he was not made cardinal in last year’s consistory, since the Pope seemed to follow an unwritten rule which states that a new bishop of a cardinalate see should not be made cardinal until his predecessor has reached the age of eighty, perhaps in order to avoid according one diocese the unfair advantage of having two cardinal-electors. When Palma was appointed archbishop, his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, was still an eligible elector. But Cardinal Vidal would have turned eighty the week before next month’s consistory, which means that, this time around, Palma is already eligible. By not naming him as a prince of the Church, is the Pope demoting the Archdiocese of Cebu to a non-cardinalate see?
The other Filipino who has been bypassed is Manila’s new archbishop, Luis Antonio Tagle, the charismatic theologian who many observers have identified as a possible papal contender. Vatican commentators point out that the Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, Gaudencio Borbon Cardinal Rosales, would not turn eighty until August this year; and thus, per the unwritten rule of no two cardinal-electors for one diocese at the same time, the Pope did not give Tagle the red hat. But it must be pointed out also that the newly-appointed Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, gained the Pontiff’s nod despite the fact that his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Edward Cardinal Egan, has not yet turned eighty. The same is true with Archbishop Dominic Duka of Prague, a Dominican, whose predecessor, Miloslav Cardinal Vlk, is only seventy-nine years old.
Perhaps the reason Tagle was not given the red hat is not really the no-two-cardinal rule but the revelations regarding his involvement with the progressive School of Bologna, whose controversial liberal interpretation of the Second Vatican Council earned the ire of many Vatican conservatives. It maybe that the Pope has opted to make Tagle wait until the storm has died down, in a classic exercise of so-called Roman prudence. I have written extensively about the controversy regarding Tagle’s connection with the Bologna school, and the possibility of him not becoming cardinal this year, in a previous blog entry.
Aside from Palma and Tagle, also conspicuous is the absence on the list of Archbishop Jesus Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago and Archbishop Damiao Antonio Franklin of Luanda, the leaders of some of the leading archdioceses in South America and Africa. Indeed, most of Pope Benedict XVI’s new cardinals are either Italian, European, North American or Curial officials. The only non-Western prelates who made it are the Indian Arhbishop of Syro-Malabar Church, an Eastern Syrian Rite church that is in full communion with Rome, and the Chinese Bishop of Hong Kong. Is the Vatican reversing the trend of making the College of Cardinals less Eurocentric and more international? Indeed, did the Pope really had a free hand in making this list, or is it really, as the scuttlebutt implies, a baby of Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, who apparently favors more Italian and Curial cardinals?
The notable omissions of Tagle and, most especially, Palma means that the Philippines, the world’s third largest Catholic country, will be left with no cardinal-elector this year, unless the Pope calls for another consistory, which is unlikely. Similarly, another major Catholic country, Colombia, will be left without a cardinal-elector. This would most likely upset many devotees in both countries.