Alfred Asfour writes from Amman:'Will the Patriarchate of Jerusalem have a permanent cardinality in the future?'

Submitted by munir on Sun, 09/24/2023 - 08:31

Cardinals in the Catholic Church are princes of the church, and in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the rank of cardinals comes directly after the rank of the Supreme Pontiff, and he is the one who grants them this rank according to qualities and specifications that he knows and determines.


A cardinal in the Church has duties and powers that bishops who do not hold this rank do not have. The most important and dangerous task of the cardinals is to elect the pope, but this task is limited to cardinals who are under the age of eighty at the time of the vacancy of the Holy See.


The number of cardinals now in the Catholic Church, including those who will be consecrated on September 30, is two hundred and forty-two, of whom only one hundred and thirty-seven are entitled to participate in the election of the Pope.


The majority of Vatican departments are headed by cardinals who assist His Holiness the Pope in his duties. There are cardinals who do not assume responsibility for any department, contenting themselves with managing their diocese while holding the rank of cardinal.


On the 30th of this month, His Holiness the Pope will grant the cardinal blessing to twenty-one bishop and archbishop, including the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who was bestowed with this rank by His Holiness the Pope last month.


The announcement of granting the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem the rank of Cardinal was an announcement that spread joy and happiness in the hearts of the people of the Church of Jerusalem. This rank is not only a tribute to the Patriarch personally, but also to the entire Jerusalem Church and all its subjects in the Middle East.


Although this announcement was a source of pleasure and happiness, it raised a legitimate question: Does the papal decree to grant the rank of cardinal to any bishop relate personally to the bishop to whom it is granted, or is it to the bishop in his capacity as he heads a distinguished episcopal see?


There must be certain qualities that the Holy See approves of in a bishop or patriarch that prompt the Pope to grant this high rank to this or that bishop. It may be said that His Holiness the Pope is not obligated to grant this rank to every patriarch, but in reality we see that there are bishops whose cardinal rank appears to be inherent to the episcopal see to which they ascend, i.e. the see of the Maronite Patriarchate in Lebanon as well as the see of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Iraq. Does the Vatican have the intention of permanently granting the cardinality to the Patriarch of Jerusalem?


I believe that all parishioners of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem desire and demand that the rank of cardinal be impersonal, but rather inherent to the See of Jerusalem, that is to be granted to every patriarch who is installed on the Patriarchal See. This demand, in addition to being a pastoral demand, is certainly a national and popular demand as well, and requires everyone’s support.


When Patriarch Pizzaballa is installed as a cardinal in Rome, there will be an official and popular Jordanian delegation in addition to the ecclesiastical delegation, and certainly there will be a similar Palestinian delegation. All national, popular and pastoral activities want this delegation to petition the Pope and the relevant authorities in the Vatican to issue a papal decree to grant the patriarch of Jerusalem the cardinality rank as he is appointed to his duties. It is certain that a decision like this will strengthen the cohesion of the Jerusalem Church and its unity with the mother church in Rome, and will also strengthen the position of Christians in the East.


There is no doubt that granting the Patriarch of Jerusalem the rank of cardinal is a tribute to the See of Jerusalem and the people of the Church of Jerusalem. The importance of the rank constitutes spiritual and moral support for the Christians of the East in general and the Christians of Palestine and Jerusalem in particular, who are declining with a remarkable acceleration that may lead to the emptying of the Holy Land of its Christian people, which is something that no one wants, and in particular the Church does not want either.


Some say that the Vatican had the intention years ago to grant the former Patriarch of Jerusalem, Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, the rank of cardinal, but the matter ran into severe obstacles due to political reasons. It is known, of course, that the Israeli occupation authorities were disturbed by the former Patriarch’s authentic national positions. Would Israel object if the rank was granted in the future to an Arab patriarch?


That the Arabs Christian in the East demand that the rank of cardinal become a right for every bishop who holds the see of Jerusalem is a just and deserved demand, and the time has come in order to enhance the status of Jerusalem and the status of its church and to enhance the cohesion of its people.

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By Alfred Asfour-Amman