New ceremony for the creation of cardinals

Francois BruneryMy old mentor Msgr. Schuler used to ask the unwary: “What’s the difference between a priest and a monsignor? … None. But often the monsignor doesn’t know it.”

To be made a cardinal of Holy Church brings with the office some perks, but it doesn’t make a man more than what he was.  That said, according to the will of the Legislator, men who are not bishops who are “created” cardinals are to receive episcopal consecration, unless they are dispensed.  Jesuits, for example, usually ask for the dispensation.

From CNA:

Pope approves reformed ceremony for creating cardinals

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2012 / 03:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Pope Benedict XVI creates 22 new cardinals next month, he will use a revised and simplified version of the ceremony to avoid any impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament.“The creation of new cardinals had to be inserted into a context of prayer, while at the same time avoiding anything that could give rise to the idea of a ‘cardinalatial Sacrament,’” the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff said Jan. 10.

“Historically speaking, in fact, consistories have never been considered as a liturgical rite but as a meeting of the Pope with cardinals as part of the governance of the Church.” [And if they had not screwed around with the ceremony, it wouldn’t be necessary today to make it seem not to be a sacrament.]

The chief modification to the ceremony that will take place in Rome on Feb. 18 is that three phases will now be combined into one: the imposition of the biretta, the consignment of the ring and the assignation of each cardinal’s new title.

The Office of Liturgical Celebrations explained that prior to reforms instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1969, the imposition of the red hat took place during a public consistory while the ring and title were conferred in a secret consistory that took place later.

However, now that the distinction between the public and secret consistory no longer exists, it was deemed “coherent” to being the three phases together into a single rite.

The proclamation of Sacred Scripture will also take a shorter form, with a single Gospel reading – Mark 10:32-45 – but no first reading.

Finally, the collect and concluding prayers will also be those originally approved by Pope Paul VI in 1969. [Just about everything cobbled together during that Pontificate was forced into the same structure, with reading, intercessions, etc.  It is no surprise that some people might get the idea that being created a cardinal was sacramental.]


Despite the changes to the installation ceremony that will take place on the Saturday, the Pope will still celebrate Mass with the new cardinals on Sunday, in keeping with tradition.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. disco says:

    Just go back to the old way with the galero. No one would complain except fishwrap and bitter pill.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    Why not do it during a celebration of Solemn Vespers?

  3. pjsandstrom says:

    With either the old or the new ceremony with reading(s), blessings, ‘traditio instrumentorum, etc, it should at least be considered a ‘sacramental’ — a part of the process of becoming a ‘titular part of the titular clergy of the diocese of Rome.’ It is after all ‘creatio ex nihilo’ just as the ‘making of Honorary Papal Monsignori’.

  4. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Come on, EVERY Catholic knows that the 8 sacraments are Baptism, Confession, Communion, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, Last Rites, Wearing a Red Hat.

  5. Oneros says:

    Who ever thought it was a Sacrament? Who was paying enough attention to the details of this particular (and rare!) ceremony to be confused? I have to imagine the only people paying attention to the Ceremony for the Creation of Cardinals were ALREADY educated enough to know it was not a Sacrament. This strikes me as not absurd. It could be a sacramental, though, sort of, and as such, it should resemble the Sacraments somewhat. They need to stop meddling with these things. I agree: go back to the galero one, many cardinals acquire them privately anyway.

  6. Centristian says:

    “Just about everything cobbled together during that Pontificate was forced into the same structure, with reading, intercessions, etc.”

    Really, must every single thing be in the context of a liturgy of the Word? I honestly had no idea what the current ceremony for the creation of a cardinal was all about but when I gleaned from reading about this reform earlier today that it was yet another ceremony preceded by a liturgy of the Word I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “basta” already.

    I work in a diocesan office and every year they begin the Christmas party with a liturgy of the Word followed by intercessions. They do they same thing for employee recognition day and even for early dismissal before the long weekend at Easter. Of course, weddings outside of marriage are done this way, penance services…they even do it at Benediction. I don’t understand the obsession with this formula. I fully expect to see a lectern in the lavatory one day.

  7. Prof. Basto says:

    The rite for the creation of new Cardinals underwent several changes: Paul VI implemented one initial reform in 1969, but Pope John Paul II approved additional reforms in the 80’s, effectively transforming the Consistory in a Liturgy of the Word, and creating the “Mass of Rings”.

    Well, in the Old Days, that is, before the initial Pauline reforms, the actual formula of creation was pronounced in the Secret Consistory, and later the new Cardinal received formal news of his appointment, together with the red zucchetto, etc. Finally, the new Cardinals appeared before a solemn public consistory, and each new Cardinal was given his red Galero.

    It is true that the secret consistory was nothing liturgical, but merely a meeting of Pope and Bishops to deal with the business of governance at hand (the creation of the Cardinals was accomplished by means of a “consistorial allocution”, that is, a speech by the Pope before the Consistory, which speech concluded with the formula of creation and the list of names).

    However, the public consistory that followed was absolutely liturgical: the ceremony for the delivery of the Galero was actually more similar to an ordination than any of the post-Conciliar rites. That was so because the rite included a recitation of the Litany of the Saints, and, during the Litany, the new Cardinals prostrated themselves, just like an ordinand prostrates himself during rites of Ordination.

    Back in the day, some Heads of State of Catholic contries had the privilege, now abolished, of delivering the birretta to a new Cardinal of their country, and such delivery was also not liturgical, of course.

  8. Athanasius says:

    How about a really revolutionary idea: restore the conferral of the cardinalate to what it was before the changes of Paul VI?

  9. JonPatrick says:

    How about an even more revolutionary idea – appoint Cardinals that uphold the teachings of the Church, and who are aware of their primary responsibility as the saving of souls rather than as administrators or political leaders? I am not as concerned about what ceremony they were incardinated with as I am with what happens afterwards.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Oneros,

    the thing about Cardinals is that – unlike, for instance, Abbots -, that their creation is not even a sacramental. You might make a case that the accompanying prayers of benediction, which I’m sure that exist, are a sacramental; cardinalatial creation itself is not. It is an event completely within the realm of jurisdiction (and maybe pastoral-care, considering the installment of parishpriests in Rome).

  11. Supertradmum says:

    This would have been a good time for the Pope to simply go back to the old way. We must pray harder for him. I cannot imagine the pressures in the Vatican.

  12. Father K says:


    I agree, anyone who is interested enough to watch the creation of cardinals [no doubt on EWTN] would have the intelligence to know it was not a sacrament being administered. A bit like the argument they use for moving the tabernacle; that vast numbers of Sunday Mass goers spend their time in church agonising over the confusion between the reserved sacrament and what is happening at the altar!

    I didn’t know that some cardinals do acquire a galero, but it doesn’t surprise me. What do they do with it – hang it over their beds?


    Simply going back to the ‘old way’ isn’t necessary a better option.

  13. “Just about everything cobbled together during that Pontificate was forced into the same structure, with reading, intercessions, etc. “

    Indeed. Though I have no personal knowledge of it, I’ve heard the claim that even the new rite of exorcism of the devil (in the Book of Blessings?) follows this same reading-intercessions formula. If so, one must wonder whether Satan doesn’t sometimes get a good laugh from the intercessions.

    The only place I think this sixties-new formula works fairly well is at the end of Lauds and Vespers. Though only in Latin, where the intercessions frequently contain such elegant language and substance pertinent to the day being celebrated, that I actually look forward to reading them at the end of each major hour, especially on feasts and solemnities. Whereas their current (uncorrected) English translations, as often as not, sound so trite (and sometimes politically correct) as to be embarrassing to read aloud in public.

  14. Centristian: “they even do it at Benediction. I don’t understand the obsession with this formula. I fully expect to see a lectern in the lavatory one day.”

    ROFLOL. Though I’ve never seen prayers of the faithful at Benediction. Really?

  15. MarkJ says:

    The stability of the Traditional Rite comes more and more into focus as the Modern Rite is altered again and again…

  16. Andy Milam says:

    “[And if they had not screwed around with the ceremony, it wouldn’t be necessary today to make it seem not to be a sacrament.]”

    I wonder if it is possible for Fr. Z to give himself a gold star for the day!!!!

    This is a very important statement in this conversation. For it shows that the hermeneutic of rupture extends well beyond the liturgical action. And if it extends into this area, how far can it go? And if can go this far, what about the claims of the SSPX? Would it not be possible then to think that maybe, just maybe there is legitimacy to the issues in which they have such a serious concern?

    I’m not saying the SSPX is right, but I am saying that Fr. Z has provoked a thought which m ight lead to a serious conversation on how far reaching the hermeneutic of rupture has really become.

    I think that Fr. Z deserves the gold star of the day for this!!!!!

  17. Blaise says:

    I would have thought the press could easily be confused if they cover (at all) the creation of Cardinals and it seems just like other events they cover. I wouldn’t expect the BBC for example to understand what is and what is not a sacrament.
    as for JonPatrick’s comment “How about an even more revolutionary idea – appoint Cardinals that uphold the teachings of the Church, and who are aware of their primary responsibility as the saving of souls rather than as administrators or political leaders?
    Is that their primary role qua Cardinal or qua priest? I think part of the consequence of the distinction Fr Z is highlighting is that being a Cardinal is not per se about saving souls – it is an administrative role. Being a Bishop, however, is both much more significant ontologically and otherwise and primarily about saving souls.
    And Centristian’s comment “they even do it at Benediction. I don’t understand the obsession with this formula. I fully expect to see a lectern in the lavatory one day” … brilliant. Maybe you can use it to store spare copies of the NcR for use while there.

  18. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Speaking of cardinals, Father Z, how reliable is the news that Angelo Amato will be the new prefect for the CDF, according to Tosati? Amato is a magnificent candidate, but I was hoping that Cardinal Canizares could move there and make space for Cardinal Ranjith at the CDWDS…

  19. So, IS the investiture of a cardinal a “sacramental”, or no? I’ve not thought about that one before. Little help (sources cited)?

  20. leonugent2005 says:

    Perhaps with just the single gospel reading and no first reading everyone’s mind will be fresh and they will be able to pay attention all the way to the end of Mark 10:32-45

  21. Paul says:

    Sorry if I’m showing my ignorance, but does anyone know the title the painting illustrating this post?

  22. Tim Ferguson says:

    I think a solid case could be made that the investiture of a cardinal is a sacramental. The ’83 Code definition of a sacramental (echoed in the Catechism) is a “sacred sign by which, somewhat after the fashion of the sacraments, effects, especially spiritual ones, are signified and are obtained through the intercession of the Church.” Among these signs are chiefly blessings – of persons and things. Certainly, in the investiture, the Cardinals themselves are blessed, as are their rings (I’m not positive if the birettas are blessed). The six traditional categories of sacramentals (orans, tinctus, edens, confessus, dans, benedicens) would find a place for the investiture in the “benedicens” category. The contemporary division of sacramentals into invocatory, constitutive, consecrations and exorcism would place the investiture into the first category, though a case could be made that the blessing of the rings is a constitutive blessing. (For these past two sentences, I’ve relied heavily on the Navarre-Gratianus Exegetical commentary, Vol. III/2, pp.1634 ff.)

  23. thefeds says:

    Thanks again for clearheaded, simple, and intelligent commentary on all things Catholic, Father Z.
    BTW, nice view from the feeder feed of the angry birds…

  24. hald says:

    The painting is Sans Pitié (FR: Without Pity) by François Brunery

  25. JonPatrick says:

    Blaise, the Cardinals I was thinking of are the ones who oversee major archdioceses such as Boston (near where I live) and where we have seen those in charge put the reputation of the diocese over the needs of the souls they were responsible for — see Philip Lawler’s book “The Faithful Departed” which documents the decline and fall of the Boston Archdiocese and should be required reading for the US church leadership.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Tim Ferguson,


    Why I (wrongly, as so often) considered it a triviality that cardinalcy is no sacramental is for the following considerations. However, with excuses to dear @Dr. Peters, I can not cite any sources.

    It is my understanding that only once, jurisdiction is never conferred by a sacramental and only once by a sacrament, to wit, in episcopal consecrations. (Sometimes it was said bishops receive these from the Pope, but rather it is that they cannot execute it without being in unison with him, and that he may assign the boundaries, etc.) In any other case, either jurisdiction or the Cardinalatial dignity is precisely not conferred “through the intercession of the Church”, nor (of course) ex opere operato by God himself, but because the Pope has chosen so.
    And therefore the creation may be accompanied by sacramentals, and it does seem that the Cardinals need any blessing they can get for their duties, but it is not itself a sacramental.

    Consider a pope, doubtful but not logically impossible, who said in the morning to a visiting bishop: “We create you a Cardinal in this moment, without consistory, despite laws to the contrary even worthy of special mentioning; in particular, We allow and, indeed, ask you to buy some insignia (on our costs; Our private secretary has none ready) and wear them at once.” Of course this action would be valid.

  27. Prof. Basto says:

    If the blessing of an abbot, the consecration of a virgin nun, the coronation of a King, and even the investiture of a knight are Sacramentals (all of the above have proper rites found in the EF Pontificale Romanum), then, prima facie at least, the papal rite of investiture of the Cardinal with the insignia of office would be a sacramental too, right?

    However, at least part of the delivery of the insignia, in times past, was done by the Heads of State of certain Catholic countries. Given that such Heads of State were laymen, then surely such delivery of insignia cannot be considered a sacramental.

    Also, I think it is important, in trying to find an answer to Dr. Peters’ question, to distinguish three moments, three different acts: (1) the CREATION of a Cardinal in Consistory; (2) the PUBLICATION of a Cardinal’s name in Consistory and (3) the BESTOWAL OF THE INSIGNIA upon a Cardinal.

    Acts 1 and 2 above usually happen together (“Itaque auctoritate Omnipotentis Dei, Sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac Nostra creamus et publicamus S.R.E. Cardinales… “), but not always: when Cardinals are created in pectore, the act of CREATION is disjoined from the act of publication. In that specific case, creation takes place in one Consistory, and publication takes place only in a subsequent one.

    Also, in the old days, acts 1 and 2 above (the acts of creation and publication), did not happen in the presence of the new Cardinal. The procedure before the first Pauline reforms was as follows:

    a) Only those who were ALREADY CARDINALS took part in the secret consistory to witness the papal decree of creation and publication. From the moment of the prononucement of the decree in secret consistory, the chosen ones became Cardinals, but they were not there to witness their own creation and publication.

    b) Later, the new Cardinals were solemnly informed of their publication as Cardinals (by means of the delivery of the “biglietto”), receiving at that moment part of the insignia (the zucchetto only, I believe). So a new Cardinal would be some place in Rome (probably prepared, having been told in advance to expect what would follow), and a Papal Messenger would come with the biglietto informing the new Cardinal of his accomplished appointment.

    c) Having created the new Cardinals and issued orders for them to be notified, and the notifications being made, the Pope would then hold a consistory just to present the newly published Cardinals with the insignia of office: at that point, a Cardinal would receive his ring, his Galero, etc. At that consistory, also, the new Cardinals took their oaths and the papal briefs/bulls assigning to each Cardinal his deaconry or title was delivered,

    d) In some Catholic countries, the delivery of the birretta was the privilege of the Head of State.

    So, while steps “a” and “b” were purely juridical, step “c” was clearly liturgical, and it seems to me that it does have the nature of a sacramental.

    The secret consistory of creation and publication consisted only of the Papal allocution, a speech that finished with the solemn formula of creation and publication. The consistory for the delivery of the insignia, however, involved complex liturgical rites.

    One can remember, too, that St. John Fischer was created Cardinal by the Pope in a Consistory in Rome while the new Cardinal himself was imprisioned in England; Fisher never received the insignia or the bull of his title, but nevertheless he was fully a Cardinal from the moment of the secret consistory in which his creation and publication was decreed. So Fisher was the object of the juridical act of creation; he never underwent the sacramental for the delivery of the insignia, but he was nevertheless a Cardinal.

    Less than 50 years ago, Cardinals were still not created and invested with the insignia on the same day. For instance, the Cardinals created by Paul VI in the consistory of April 28, 1969 only received their tituli, deaconries and insignia of office on April 30, 1969.

    That time gap between creation and reception of the insignia was only recently elimitated (it was only eliminated by the reforms of Paul VI and John Paul II that combined the reading of the formula of creation and publication with the rites of oath taking and of delivery of the insignia and titles and deaconries, creating a single ceremony). That gap, that was traditional, was the reason for norms such as the one found still today in number 36 of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis:

    “36. A Cardinal of Holy Roman Church who has been created and published before the College of Cardinals thereby has the right to elect the Pope, in accordance with the norm of No. 33 of the present Constitution, even if he has not yet received the red hat or the ring, or sworn the oath. On the other hand, Cardinals who have been canonically deposed or who with the consent of the Roman Pontiff have renounced the cardinal- ate do not have this right. Moreover, during the period of vacancy the College of Cardinals cannot readmit or rehabilitate them.”

  28. Centristian says:

    @Prof. Basto:

    “So, while steps “a” and “b” were purely juridical, step “c” was clearly liturgical, and it seems to me that it does have the nature of a sacramental.”

    Step “c”, by your description, doesn’t seem any more liturgical to me than the ennoblement of a subject of the Crown, or even the commissioning of a Lord Chancellor or other Great Officer of State by the British Monarch. If it’s just a matter of a ceremony bestowing the insignia (a hat that isn’t worn liturgically) of a rank that brings with it no more fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders (laymen could be created cardinal), how actually does that qualify as liturgy, I wonder? Even if it included a prostration (peers and officers and knights kneel before their sovereign when ennobled/appointed/knighted) and a Litany, that would seem to me to be at best paraliturgical rather than liturgical. It’s just a matter of receiving the insignia of rank, albeit in a prayerful setting, isn’t it? I’m not sure that equals liturgy.

  29. Prof. Basto says:


    In what I called step”c”, the public consistory for the delivery of the insingia, the Pope attended in cope and mitre. Copes and mitres are only worn for liturgical ceremonies; if it was a non liturgical event, the Popes of ages past would wear the mozzetta.

    Cope and mitre was not worn for the secret consistory, only for the liturgical act of the public consistory.

  30. Thanks, folks. Very interesting.

  31. Centristian says:

    Prof. Basto:

    “In what I called step”c”, the public consistory for the delivery of the insingia, the Pope attended in cope and mitre. Copes and mitres are only worn for liturgical ceremonies; if it was a non liturgical event, the Popes of ages past would wear the mozzetta.”

    Hmmm. Excellent point. I find myself baffled, now. The Pope in his pontificals notwithstanding, the ceremony still seems outside the liturgy of the Church. But then why would the Pope be in his pontificals?

    I am greatly vexed.

  32. leonugent2005 says:

    My understanding of Cardinals is that they elect the Pope. This is an important job and someone has to do it.

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