Cardinal Marc Ouellet kisses the ring of Pope John Paul II during the 2003 consistory elevating him to cardinal. Changes have been made for this year’s consistory. CNS photo /Reuters

Cardinal's installation ceremony more streamlined than in the past

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • February 13, 2012

VATICAN CITY - In part to avoid giving the impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament or quasi-sacrament, Pope Benedict XVI will use a revised, streamlined prayer service to create 21 new cardinals Feb. 18.

In previous years, the installation ceremony consisted of the consistory on Saturday where the new cardinals received their red hats and the assignment of their titular churches in Rome, followed by a Mass on Sunday where the Pope presented each new cardinal with a ring as “the sign of dignity, pastoral care and the most solid communion with the See of Peter.”

This time, the new cardinals will receive their hats, rings and assignments during the Feb. 18 ceremony. They still will celebrate Mass with the Pope the next day. At the beginning of the Mass, the first of the new cardinals — Cardinal-designate Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples — will express thanks to the Pope on behalf of the group.

The ritual was revised in order to maintain an atmosphere of prayer, while not giving the impression that becoming a cardinal is a liturgical event, said the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

“The creation of new cardinals should be located within a context of prayer while avoiding any element that could give the idea of a ‘sacrament of the cardinalate,’ ” it said. “In fact, historically the consistory was never considered a liturgical rite, but rather a meeting of the Pope with the cardinals in relation to the governance of the Church.”

Within the consistory itself, giving the cardinals their rings is not the only change being made. The opening and closing prayers will be the ancient prayers, which were drawn upon in 1969 when Pope Paul VI held his first consistory using a prayer service designed after the Second Vatican Council, the paper said. The prayer service also will be shorter, eliminating the first reading and including only the Gospel reading: Mark 10:32-45, in which Jesus explains to the disciples that He came to serve, not be served.

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The rituals associated with the bestowal of the Cardinal rank are centuries old and steeped in symbolism. The ceremony is not sacramental, like being ordained a priest or bishop, but one that recognizes the special role of the cardinal as a pastor who serves the Bishop of Rome in a unique apostolic way.


The consistory is held in the Paul VI Audience Hall, which seats more than 6,000 people. The cardinal-designates enter the hall in a specific order that establishes their order of precedence within the Sacred College for the remainder of their lifetimes, unless they are promoted to a higher class within the College. The first cardinal-designate addresses the Pope on behalf of the group and pledges their unified support and fidelity. 


After the homily, the group approaches the Pope and offers their Profession of Faith in Latin. One by one, each cardinal-designate then genuflects before the Pope and the scarlet watered-silk zucchetto and biretta are placed on his head.

The cardinal-designate immediately becomes a full member of the Sacred College once the Pope recites these words:

“In praise of God and in the honour of the Apostolic See, receive the red hat, the sign of the cardinal’s dignity. For you must be ready to conduct yourself with fortitude, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith; for the peace and tranquility of the people of God and for the kingdom of Heaven and for the Holy Roman Church.”

The new cardinal then embraces the Pope and greets the other members of the College. 


(With files from the archdiocese of Toronto.)

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