On Sunday, July 9, 2023, at the end of the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis announced the creation of new cardinals and set the date for the celebration of the Consistory as next September 30, just before the opening of the long-awaited Synodal Assembly. This is a very opportune date, given that several of the new cardinals will participate in the Synod and that the imminence of the Synod itself will encourage the participation of other cardinals and bishops arriving for that occasion. Thus, a high and significant moment of ecclesial communion around the Pope and of renewed and continuous edification of the “College” that aid the Pontiff and for the service of the universal Church.
This is the ninth Consistory in these now more than 10 years of Francis’ pontificate. There has been one every year except in 2021, likely because of the pandemic. There are 21 new cardinals announced, the same number as last year and the highest number in this pontificate, with as many as 18 cardinal “electors” (i.e. under 80) and three “non-electors.” The College of Cardinals as a whole is thus not only replenished for the gaps created by reason of age and temporarily rejuvenated with a sizeable group of 60- and 50-year-olds, but increased in number, in the sense that by the time of the Consistory it will predictably have 137 electors (out of a total of more than 230 cardinals).
The figure of 120, indicated as appropriate by St. Paul VI, is thus significantly exceeded, as indeed was the case several times during the time of St. John Paul II, who reached a maximum of over 140 electors. The College thus appears somewhat “full” today, with well over two-thirds of the electors (99) created cardinals by Pope Francis. Only 39 received the purple in the previous two pontificates. It is the Pope’s responsibility that as time goes by the College does not shrink or weaken, but is always able to exercise its functions, including that of electing the Pontiff.