Pope cancels meeting with cardinals

In wake of rejection of dubia Pope cancels meeting with cardinals

NOV 17th 2016 By Deacon Nick Donnelly EWTNGB

In an unprecedented development in the post Vatican II Church Pope Francis has cancelled his meeting with the world's cardinals at the consistory he convoked to take place on Saturday 19th November. The Holy Father's surprise decision follows the unusual step he has taken not to respond to the dubia -- the five questions --- submitted to him by senior cardinals to clarify confusion arising from his post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. 

A consistory is a formal meeting of the college of cardinals convoked and chaired by the pope that are usually conducted in secret, though can be held in public. The Code of Cano Law sets out the purposes of consistories:

Can. 353 §1 Cardinals assist the Supreme Pastor of the Church in collegial fashion particularly in Consistories, in which they are gathered by order of the Roman Pontiff and under his presidency. Consistories are either ordinary or extraordinary.

§2 In an ordinary Consistory all Cardinals, or at least those who are in Rome, are summoned for consultation on certain grave matters of more frequent occurrence, or for the performance of especially solemn acts.

§3 All Cardinals are summoned to an extraordinary Consistory, which takes place when the special needs of the Church and more serious matters suggest it.

§4 Only an ordinary Consistory in which certain solemnities are celebrated, can be public, that is when, in addition to the Cardinals, Prelates, representatives of civil states and other invited persons are admitted.

In the light of this, it appears unusual that having convoked a consistory the pope is not meeting with his college of cardinals to discuss important issues facing the Church.

Marco Tosatti, Italian journalist and Vatican expert, reports Pope Francis's decision to cancel his meeting with the college of cardinals. He describes it as a "strange Consistory",  strange because, unlike the other two previous occasions, the Pope will not meet the cardinals in Rome the day before. Tosatti observes that a consistory is a very special event in the life of the Church because it creates new cardinals. It is also a special occasion for the pope to "see gathered around him the College, including those who rarely come ad limina, to receive information, exchange ideas and perceptions, and send messages." Marco Tosatti gives details of the unconventional programme

This year, there will not be a meeting with all the cardinals. The program provides only for the ceremony of creation of new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica, at 11 Saturday, November 19, and the mass the next day. The Saturday afternoon from 16.30 to 18.30 are provided courtesy visits, “di calore" in curial jargon. 

Pope Francis used his first consistory to tentatively introduce his plan to change the Church's teaching on communion for the divorced and civilly "re-married'. He invited Cardinal Kasper -- the long-time proponent of radical change in the Church's perennial teaching -- to address his fellow cardinals At the time Marco Tosatti reported that Cardinal Kasper's addresse caused consternation among the cardinals:

Card. Ruini noted that some 85% percent of cardinals who spoke up after Kasper were against Kasper’s proposals.  He opined of those who said nothing that perhaps they were simply “embarrassed”.

In the light of Pope Francis's other unprecedented decison not to respond to the cardinals' concerns about Amoris Laetitia, expressed to him in the traditional form of a dubia, it is being speculated that the Holy Father has cancelled his meeting with the college of cardinals in order to avoid discussing the dubia and his decision about it.


One of the much vaunted acheivements of the Second Vatican Council was its re-discovery and renewal of the ancient Catholic principles of collegiality and synodality as visible signs of the communion of the Church. As a consequence, consistories and synods were developed as practical instruments of ecclesial government and liturgical events in the life of the Church that manifested the communion of the Mystical Body of Christ and the People of God.

In light of the serious issues raised by the cardinals' dubia and Pope Francis's decision not to respond to their concerns it was even more important that he and the cardinals met during the consistory to begin the process of dealing with these sensitive issues that are vital for the future of the Church. The Holy Father's decision to cancel his meeting with the college of cardinals only adds to the sense of growing concern.