By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
A consistory can always be approached from a variety of angles, and in the case of today’s elevation of 23 new cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI, one could make a good case for dubbing it “the consistory of the long-suffering.”
At least five of the men who will shortly receive their red hats from the pope this morning in a Rome ceremony, held indoors in St. Peter's Basilica because of inclement local weather, have long been bridesmaids rather than brides when it comes to joining the church’s most exclusive club: American Cardinal John Foley, German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, Irish Cardinal Sean Brady, Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, and Spanish Cardinal Agustín García-Gasco y Vicente.
Of the five, Foley has clearly been waiting the longest. He was appointed an archbishop and president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1984, at the age of 48, and only now becomes a cardinal at the age of 71. During that time, Foley watched eight consistories come and ago while 214 other men became cardinals.
Foley now serves as the Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
A fellow Vatican official, Cordes has been an archbishop and president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” the Vatican’s main charitable agency, since 1995. Like Foley, Cordes was frequently mentioned as a candidate to become a cardinal over the last decade.
Unlike Foley, however, Cordes has been elevated while remaining in his current position. Most observers believe Benedict XVI wished to thank Cordes, among other things, for his role in drafting the second section of the pope’s December 2005 encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.”
Brady was appointed archbishop of Armagh, traditionally the primatial see in Ireland, in 1996. For some time, however, it was believed that the Vatican would not appoint a second Irish cardinal as long as Cardinal Desmond Connell of Dublin was still in office. Once Connell stepped down in 2004, speculation about the next cardinal focused more on his successor, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
Instead, the patience of Brady, 68, was rewarded this morning.
Rylko was made an archbishop and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1995. Given his connection to Pope John Paul II, a fellow Pole, as well as to John Paul’s private secretary, now-Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, many felt at the time that Rylko would swiftly ascend to a position in which he would become a cardinal.
Despite being appointed president of the Council for Laity in 2003, however, Rylko, now 62, had to wait an additional four years before joining the college.
Finally, García-Gasco was appointed archbishop of Valencia in long-ago 1992, at the age of 61. Church-watchers in Spain at the time predicted a red hat in relatively short order, but instead he has waited 15 years, until the age of nearly 77, before making the cut.