By Lara Pickford-Gordon (Catholic News, T&T)
Cardinal Kelvin Felix was scheduled to leave his native Dominica on Monday (February 17) for Rome to attend the public consistory for the creation of new cardinals at which he – and 18 others appointed by Pope Francis – will receive the accoutrements of the office.
In keeping with Church tradition, they will also be assigned to a church in Rome.
Cardinal Felix, whose 81st birthday was February 15, is the first cardinal from the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC).
Haiti too is celebrating its first cardinal – 55-year-old Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes.
The consistory takes place on Saturday, February 22 at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. local time) at St Peter’s Basilica. It coincides with the celebration of the feast of the Chair of St Peter, an observance to mark St Peter’s teaching in Rome.
Speaking with the Catholic News last Tues-day afternoon from his parish office in Soufriere, Dominica, Cardinal Felix said he was “cool” and didn’t expect to feel any “big excitement, until I get there”. He continues to function as parish priest and earlier in the day had celebrated Mass for the World Day of the Sick.
Cardinal Felix, Archbishop Emeritus of Castries (St Lucia), said he has not been briefed on how the consistory will proceed but expected to be told when he arrives in Rome.
The red cassock and biretta which are worn by cardinals are made in Rome. Asked if his measurements had been sent to Rome, he replied, “I’ve been to Rome several times. They keep my measurements. Fortunately I have not put on much weight.”
Commenting on his role as head of a church in Rome, he said this would require celebrating Masses there. “All these things I have to find out in Rome,” he added, including what plans Pope Francis had in store for him.
Roseau’s Bishop Gabriel Malzaire said the people of Dominica were looking forward to the consistory. “Since the announcement last month, there was a little lull but the consistory is being awaited by many people,” he noted.
Bishop Malzaire said this was a “tremendous moment” for the Caribbean. “It was something many thought was necessary. I think it is something to bask in and enjoy.” Bishop Malzaire lived in Rome for four years but has never witnessed a consistory. “It is going to be quite a splendour-filled moment,” he said. The Caribbean delegation will arrive in Rome on February 21 and leave three days later. Bishop Malzaire and the delegation are being accommodated at a guesthouse, while Cardinal Felix will stay at the Domus Sanctae Marthe, a guesthouse for visiting cardinals and other clergy.
Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Gira-soli said the Caribbean delegation would comprise 50 persons from Dominica and St Lucia, and will be led by the representative of the Dominica Government – former President Nicholas Liverpool and his wife.
US-based relatives of Cardinal Felix will also be attending. Archbishop Girasoli said the public consistory was a “solemn and very simple ceremony” inside St Peter’s Basilica.
He explained that it would begin with an announcement and then each cardinal, assisted by a secretary or priest, would approach the Pope to receive his red hat and ring. Archbishop Girasoli said each cardinal promises to renew faithfulness to the Holy See and Holy Father.
Noting that the ceremony was not a Mass, Archbishop Girasoli said there was usually the Liturgy of the Word followed by an address by the Pope.
He said all new cardinals were bestowed with a title in the Church in Rome. Explaining the background to this, Archbishop Girasoli said, “The meaning of ‘Cardinal’ is to be a priest of Rome. Through history the link remains. Each cardinal has to have a church in Rome. It means they are serving the diocese of Rome even if they are not living there.”
At 10 a.m. (5 a.m. local time) on the day after the consistory (February 23), there will be a celebratory Mass which the new cardinals will concelebrate with Pope Francis.
Two days prior to the consistory, Pope Francis will meet privately with the new cardinals. In his January 12 letter to them, he said there would be “two days of reflection on the family”.