Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Greg's Father-Cardinal

One of the more acclaimed "hometown" red-hats doled out at last month's consistory was that given to the rector-emeritus of the Pontifical Gregorian University, 87 year-old Cardinal Urbano Navarette.

A Spanish Jesuit known for his kind touch -- to say nothing of his famed expertise in canon law, still sought by the Curia's upper ranks -- Navarette spoke to Zenit about the honor... and his hope that it won't change too much.
Q: How did you receive the news of your nomination as a cardinal?

Cardinal Navarette: On Oct. 16, the day before it was made public, the secretary of state [Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone] called me because I had been entrusted to study a juridical point. We discussed this point that was very simple for me. Then point-blank, he told me: "Tomorrow at noon, the Pope will proclaim that you are a cardinal."

My reaction? At the age that I am -- I am already 87 years old -- to begin new things seems strange to me.

The day of the announcement -- obviously I kept the pontifical secret until 12 the following day -- I went to see my superior when there was no longer danger of violation.

The father rector made it public, and I said two things: I asked my superiors to leave me in the same place that I am, for the days of life which the Lord gives me; in the second place I asked my companions that they not change anything in how they deal with me, that I am the same as before and I would like them to treat me as before.

Q: Can we say, then, that the Holy Father has awarded you with the title of cardinal because of your extensive work as a canon lawyer?

Cardinal Navarette: In what refers to the aspect of reward, I think I have few merits, but I can say with all sincerity that I have dedicated many hours of my life to work that is secret, in the Vatican Archives.

For me, teaching was my principal obligation, and if I had to dedicate time to other things I had to squeeze them in at night if necessary, but all my life the first priority was to follow the educational formation of the canonists.

I dedicated countless hours to the codification of the Latin Code and also to the Eastern Code, as well as an instruction on the process of marriage.

These were hours that were dropped into a well, seen by no one. Perhaps the Pope wished to reward this aspect, my work. And evidently this honor overflows to the Gregorian and to the Jesuits.
Keeping with the custom precedent for the octogenarian Jesuits given "honorary" red hats, Navarette sought (and received) permission to decline episcopal ordination before entering the college.

In related Jesuit news, the global church's first Big Story of 2008 -- the Society's 35th General Congregation -- begins in Rome on Epiphany Day, 6 January. First order of business: the unprecedented "peacetime" resignation of a "Black Pope" as the Father-General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach stands down after 25 years of leading Catholicism's largest religious community.

By mid-January, following the preparation of the Status Societatis -- the "State of the Society" report that'll serve, in effect, as the new superior's job description -- the traditional 48-hour canvass of the "murmuratio" will begin the process of electing Kolvenbach's successor.

While, at least in theory, any Jesuit professed of four vows is eligible for election, the front of the pack is comprised of about ten candidates, with the outgoing General's presumed choice -- the Jesuit formation chief Fr Orlando Torres, a native of Puerto Rico -- still figuring prominently, but not overwhelmingly, among the field. Alongside the previously-mentioned, new entries in the buzzmill include the French provincial Fr Francois-Xavier Dumortier and Fr Ignacio Echarte, the former Basque provincial currently serving as Kolvenbach's delegate for the Society's outposts in Rome.

As B16 has reportedly nixed the idea of some Jesuit quarters to change the superior's mandate from a lifetime nod to a fixed term of office, the prospect of an older General emerging has increased, with the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, a former Italian provincial, among the reported prospects.

As always, stay tuned.