Although nobody believes there’s going to be a papal election anytime soon, the consistory taking place next month to create 17 new cardinals, 13 eligible to vote, is nevertheless the closest thing the Catholic Church has to the Iowa Caucus, when all the candidates are on display.
It may be election season in America, but that’s definitely not the vibe one gets in ecclesiastical Rome these days. Pope Francis is in good health, he remains fully in charge and operating at a breakneck pace, and there’s no sense that a transition is imminent.
As a result, no one’s spending a great deal of time thinking about papabili, meaning potential candidates for the papacy, because most people don’t believe the job is going to be available anytime soon.
On the other hand, there’s a consistory next month, meaning the event in which a pope creates new cardinals, so at least in theory the candidate pool is getting fresh blood. Moreover, virtually all the cardinals of the world will be in Rome for the event, which makes a consistory the closest thing in the Catholic Church to the Iowa Caucus – an early campaign milestone, when all the candidates are on display and anything seems possible.
Granted, from a faith point of view there’s something far more important than a political cattle call that will be happening on Nov. 19.
Seen through the eyes of belief, it’s about men donning garments whose very color symbolizes their willingness to shed their blood to protect the papacy and the Church, it’s about the continuity of the Church through time, and about the role of the papacy as the symbol and instrument of unity of the universal family of faith.
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