Cardinal-elect renounces episcopal ordination to remain a “simple priest”

A Franciscan cardinal-elect says he doesn’t want to be ordained as a bishop. He says he wants to continue being “simple priest” who is allowed to die in his Franciscan habit.

Friar Raniero Cantalamessa (86) says he has asked Pope Francis “for a dispensation from episcopal ordination.”

“The bishop’s job is to be a shepherd and a fisherman. At my age, I could do little as a ‘shepherd’, but what I could do as a ‘fisherman’ I can still do by announcing the word of God?” he says.

If as cardinal-elect he were ordained as bishop, canon law would place Cantalamessa outside his Franciscan order.

Last month, the pope named Cantalamessa as a cardinal along with twelve other men in a consistory to be held this coming Saturday.

Cantalamessa says he received that piece of news “like everyone else, listening live to the Pope’s Angelus.”

“If I didn’t have such a special name… I would have thought it was someone else!”, he says.

For the past 40 years, Cantalamessa has been the Preacher to the Papal Household. He is the only cleric with permission to preach to the Pope.

Under Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis, he has led the Roman Curia through their annual meditations for Advent, Lent and Good Friday. He also preached to cardinals in the 2005 and 2013 conclaves.

Though Cantalamessa will receive the red hat November 28, he says Francis still wants him to continue with his preaching assignment in the Curia.

“The Holy Father has informed me that he wants my mission to continue… and I have already begun work on the Advent preaching to be held this year in the Paul VI Hall, to allow the distance required by the epidemic.”

Though renouncing episcopal ordination is the exception rather than the rule for cardinals-elect, it is still a possibility provided for in canon law (CIC can. 351).


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