Franciscan Cardinal-elect chooses to remain a simple priest

  1. CathNews NZ Pacific

Cardinal-elect renounces episcopal ordination to remain a “simple priest”

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

A Franciscan cardinal-elect says he doesn’t want to be ordained as a bishop. He says he wants to continue being “simple priest” who is allowed to die in his Franciscan habit.

Friar Raniero Cantalamessa (86) says he has asked Pope Francis “for a dispensation from episcopal ordination.”

“The bishop’s job is to be a shepherd and a fisherman. At my age, I could do little as a ‘shepherd’, but what I could do as a ‘fisherman’ I can still do by announcing the word of God?” he says.

If as cardinal-elect he were ordained as bishop, canon law would place Cantalamessa outside his Franciscan order.

Last month, the pope named Cantalamessa as a cardinal along with twelve other men in a consistory to be held this coming Saturday.

Cantalamessa says he received that piece of news “like everyone else, listening live to the Pope’s Angelus.”

“If I didn’t have such a special name… I would have thought it was someone else!”, he says.

For the past 40 years, Cantalamessa has been the Preacher to the Papal Household. He is the only cleric with permission to preach to the Pope.

Under Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis, he has led the Roman Curia through their annual meditations for Advent, Lent and Good Friday. He also preached to cardinals in the 2005 and 2013 conclaves.

Though Cantalamessa will receive the red hat November 28, he says Francis still wants him to continue with his preaching assignment in the Curia.

“The Holy Father has informed me that he wants my mission to continue… and I have already begun work on the Advent preaching to be held this year in the Paul VI Hall, to allow the distance required by the epidemic.”

Though renouncing episcopal ordination is the exception rather than the rule for cardinals-elect, it is still a possibility provided for in canon law (CIC can. 351).


Preacher-at-large to Pope Francis, Padre Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M., is surely walking in the footsteps of his patron, St.Francis of Assisi, in not wanting to take upon himself the authority of a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church. St. Francis, himself, was never even ordained a priest but willingly took upon himelf the role of the diaconate, which is a role of humble service, rather than that of authority.

There have been members of Religious Orders who have accepted the role of Cardinals, but there also have been lay-people, as mentioned by Dr. taylor Marshall in Wikipedia. He also mentions an American priest who was dispensed from the normal obligation to be ordained a bishop:

“Pope John Paul II of blessed memory dispensed Cardinal Dulles from being elevated to the episcopate. He is still a priest and not a bishop, i.e a Cardinal priest. Nevertheless, I believe he is allowed to pontificate like a bishop even though he is not a bishop. Moreover, I believe he is a member of the magisterium, even though he is not a bishop.”

The Anglican Franciscans of the ‘Society of Saint Francis’, FirstOrder (male) generally see themselves, not as persons authority over others, but rather as a ‘Brother’. Even the priests in the Society are seldom addressed (by their brethren) as ‘Father’. Brother John Charles Vockler, who was Brother Guardian of the Friary, in Brisbane, Australia, in my time, was also a bishop of the Anglican Church, having been what he called ‘Bishop IN Polynesia’. [He had always insisted that he not be called ‘The Bishop OF Polynesia’, simply because there was also a Roman Catholic Bishop in the Province]. However, when J.C. became a Franciscan, his normal title of address was ‘Brother’, although he still held the office of a bishop in the Church. (Whenever Bro. J.C. presided at the Mass, he would take off his episcopal ring and lay on the altar).

That Brother Raniero, OFM, has chosen not to be ordained a bishop – which is normally expected of a cardinal-elect in the Roman Catholic Church – should not be too suprising. In this he more perfectly remains loyal to one of his canonical vows ‘Poverty’, while yet perhaps choosing not, in this instance, to fulfil the expectation of subsidiary ‘Obedience’ to the normal rule of being made a bishop. Pope Francis will have to absolve him of this particular requirement.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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