This will be only the third extraordinary consistory of Francis’ pontificate and the first to take place in seven years.
At the end of the two-day meeting, in the afternoon of Aug. 30, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with the new cardinals and the entire College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.
A trip in the middle
In between all of these consistories, on Aug. 28, Pope Francis will travel for half a day to the central Italian city of L’Aquila for an important annual event, the Celestinian Forgiveness.
The Celestinian Forgiveness (Perdonanza Celestiniana in Italian) is a legacy of Pope Celestine V, who reigned from July 5, 1294, to Dec. 13 of the same year, when he resigned.
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Both a controversial and revolutionary figure, Celestine V established the Celestinian Forgiveness, which offers a plenary indulgence to all who, having confessed and repented of their sins, go to the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L’Aquila from Vespers on Aug. 28 to sunset on Aug. 29.
In L’Aquila, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass outside the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio before opening the church’s Holy Door.
He will also make a private visit to the city’s cathedral, which is still in disrepair after sustaining severe damage in a 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people in L’Aquila and the surrounding area. Following the visit, he will greet the family members of people who died in the quake.
132 cardinal electors
With the August consistory, the College of Cardinals will have 132 cardinal electors — that is, cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote for a new pope in a conclave.
Of these 132 cardinals, Pope Francis will have chosen 83, 62% of cardinal electors. By the end of 2022, when six more cardinals will have turned 80 years old, this percentage will be 65.
The quorum for the election of a pope is two-thirds or 84 cardinals. At the end of 2022, the cardinals created by Pope Francis will only be two less than the quota necessary to elect a successor.
In the Aug. 27 consistory, Pope Francis will also create four new cardinal non-electors, men over the age of 80. Pope Francis had initially named five but later accepted a Belgian Catholic bishop’s request not to be made a cardinal.
An unconventional date
This will be Pope Francis’ eighth consistory to create new cardinals, but the first time the ceremony has been held in August, typically a time of rest in Rome and the Roman Curia due to the intense summer heat.
The last time a cardinal was created in August was over 200 years ago, in 1807, when Pope Pius VII made Francesco Guidobono Cavalchini a cardinal “in pectore,” or in secret. The new cardinal’s name was not announced until the following year.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.