VATICAN CITY — Cardinals Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller, and Robert Sarah are among eight cardinals Pope Francis has elevated from cardinal deacons to the rank of cardinal priests.
The Holy Father approved the decision, made in accordance with canon law, during a consistory to confirm the canonizations of seven new saints on Monday.
According to can. 349 §5, “cardinals from the diaconal order” can be transferred “to another diaconia and if they have been in the diaconal order for ten full years, even to the presbyteral order.”
As all eight cardinals were made cardinal deacons by Benedict XVI at a consistory in November 2010, they have each served as cardinal deacons for a decade and so their elevation to the rank of cardinal priests was expected.
The change has no effect on a future conclave except that Cardinal Sarah, 75, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, will no longer be “proto-deacon” — a title given to the most senior cardinal deacon under 80.
The proto-deacon traditionally announces “Habemus papam!” (“We have a pope!”)and the name of the new Roman Pontiff from the loggia of St. Peter’s basilica. That role will now fall to a new proto-deacon, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of Vatican City State, until he turns 80 in October 2022.
The Pope appoints cardinals, loosely described nowadays as the Pope’s advisors, or “cabinet,” who assist him in spiritual, pastoral, and administrative tasks, to one of three principal orders or ranks: the order of cardinal bishop, the order of cardinal priest and the order of cardinal deacon. Whatever their rank, every cardinal under the age of 80 has the vital task of electing a new pope. The word cardinal comes from the Latin cardo which means “hinge,” a reference to the crucial role a cardinal has in aiding the Pope and his governance of the Church.
Their existence and hierarchy have a long and rich history based on the first apostles and apostolic tradition but with roots in ancient Jewish practice and a hierarchy that Moses, following the Lord’s commands, established among his collaborators. Today, however, while cardinals continue to be highly significant in the running of the Church, the orders of cardinal priests and cardinal deacons, and their levels of seniority within them, matter little beyond where they are seated at ceremonies.
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