As consistories go, the one scheduled June 28 at the Vatican doesn’t shape up as the most noteworthy among the hundreds of consistories celebrated over the past 1,000 years or so, what with a relatively small number of cardinals to be created (five). Not, at least, at this point in time.
For it was 50 years ago this month --- June 26, 1967 --- that the last man to later be canonized as a saint was elevated to the College of Cardinals: 47-year-old Archbishop Karol Jozef Wojtyla of Cracow, Poland, the second youngest of 27 cardinals created that day under the leadership of Pope Paul VI. Cardinal Wojtyla, of course, would 11 years later be elected Pope John Paul II, and in 2014 become St. John Paul II.
It is also worth noting that 40 years ago this month --- on June 27, 1977 --- John Paul’s future successor to the papacy, then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich, was one of only four men elevated to cardinal in the final consistory overseen by Pope Paul VI. After holding several Vatican posts, including prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in the conclave of April 2005.
Conversely, Pope Francis, who next week will preside at his fourth consistory in four-plus years as pope, was among the single largest group of cardinals ever created--- 42, on Feb. 21, 2001, when he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Two cardinals which had been previously been named secretly, or “in pectore,” in 1998 also were revealed that day.)
The June 28 consistory will bring the College of Cardinals’ membership to 226, 121 of them Cardinal Electors (or under age 80, and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave). Given recent history of papal conclave voting, their ranks include at least one future pope.
Whether any of the five men about to receive the symbolic red zucchetto and biretta --- Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden; Bishop Louie-Marie Mangkhanekhoun of Pakse, Laos; or Auxiliary Bishop Jose Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador --- will become saints or even noteworthy on the level of St. John Paul is, of course, too soon to know.
For as Scripture reminds us, God’s ways (and timetable) are not ours. In a world where we often desire (if not demand) immediate fulfilment of our needs and, where possible, instant gratification, that’s worth remembering.