By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis announced just over a month ago that he would create 13 new Cardinals at a Consistory on 28 November.
The news came as a surprise, not least to those men called to serve the Church and the Successor of Peter in a special way, to the point of giving their own blood.
For that is what the color red in their distinctive dress symbolizes: their willingness to sacrifice themselves usque ad sanguinis effusionem, “to the point of shedding their own blood”.
As the cardinal flies
The Cardinals-designate come from all over the world – all 5 inhabited continents – and most have come to receive their red hat and Cardinal’s ring from the Pope’s own hand.
But two of them – Cardinals-elect Cornelius Sim of Brunei and Jose Fuerte Advincula of the Philippines – are unable to make it to the Eternal City.
Travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 have them grounded at their homes in Asia.
They’ll still receive their distinctive insignia, but at a later date.
And they’ll even get to live their special moment – as many of our own are experienced these days – online, via a special livestream.
Red and ringed
That physical distance makes this Saturday’s Consistory unusual. But not unprecedented.
For example, back in February 2014, another Cardinal-designate got a special dispensation to skip the in-person Consistory due to age and ill health.
Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla was later capped in red and his finger ringed by the Dean of the College of Cardinals.
One other oddity of this 2020 event is the now-usual limitation on in-person participants in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Another is a ban on the long-standing custom of post-Consistory congratulatory visits to the new Cardinals.
So, as Cardinal-elect Jose Advincula said upon hearing the news, Pope Francis’ new Cardinals are men of the peripheries.
And some of them are physically stuck there… at least for the time being.