197 cardinals meet behind closed doors — but what is being discussed?

197 cardinals meet behind closed doors — but what is being discussed?

The extraordinary consistory of cardinals meets at the Vatican’s Synod Hall, Aug. 29, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2022 / 11:22 am (CNA).

The cardinals of the Catholic Church have been called to Rome for an extraordinary consistory. It is the first of its kind in seven years — and only the second of the pontificate of Pope Francis. 

197 cardinals have followed the call. But what are they discussing, behind closed doors, this Monday and Tuesday? 

So far, information is hard to come by. Vatican watchers know that the meetings are dedicated to discussing the new constitution of the Roman Curia, Praedicate evangelium. The cardinals are broken up into language groups for the first round of debates. Then they reconvene and discuss their findings in a plenary session — much like was done in recent synods

We also know that the debates form the third consistory within only a few days: The first, on Aug. 27, was dedicated to creating 20 new cardinals. A second, immediately after, to approve the canonization of two blesseds: Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, an Italian bishop and founder of the Missionaries of St. Charles, and Artemide Zatti, an Italian immigrant to Argentina who was a nurse and Salesian Brother.

While this context is significant — as is the historic backdrop of the papal visit to L’Aquila on Sunday — the communication from the Holy See today was sparse indeed, noted one vaticanist, among others: “The entirety of the information we have from the #Vatican as to the meeting today between #PopeFrancis and the world’s Catholic cardinals. One sentence: ‘Taking place today at the Vatican, in the presence of the Holy Father Francis, is the meeting of the cardinals…’”

One cardinal offered a glimpse, at least, of the atmosphere of today’s gathering. The first meeting with the Pope took place in a very fraternal atmosphere, Cardinal Enrico Feroci, pastor of Santa Maria del Divino Amore in Castel di Leva near Rome, told Vatican News.

After the opening prayer, he said, Francis opened the meeting by inviting everyone present to contribute to these two days of reflection on Praedicate evangelium

Cardinal Feroci also said, according to the Vatican’s own reporting, that two reflections had been shared so far: One on Communion, the witness of mutual love among Christians, and one on the challenges of today’s society to open itself to the message of the Gospel. 

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, in a subsequent conversation with Vatican News, again highlighted the great participation of the cardinals in the meeting, where an open and intense dialogue was maintained. 

Tomorrow, these “open and intense” debates will take place in a plenary meeting before this extraordinary consistory concludes: In the afternoon of Aug. 30, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with entire College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

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