Malta might get its cardinal at the Vatican by the end of the year, as Pope Benedict XVI seems to have nominated Archbishop Paul Cremona to become a cardinal.
Although there were no formal announcements, the speculation is rife and the news is expected to be made formally public by the Vatican towards the end of the year. Archbishop Cremona is expected to form part of a group of new cardinals who will be nominated by the Pope since a large number of cardinals are going to turn 80 years old, the cardinals’ ‘retirement age’, and therefore cannot be eligible to vote in the event of the Pope’s death.
Attempts to contact the local Curia spokesperson to confirm the speculations yesterday proved futile.
The Pope’s cardinals are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope behind closed doors during the centuries-old ritual known as the conclave. They have other duties such as attending the meetings of the College and making themselves available individually or collectively to the Pope if he requests their counsel. The Pope himself chooses the cardinals but there is not a fixed number of cardinals that should be appointed. Usually, cardinals are bishops before they are appointed. The cardinals have traditionally been seen as the ‘Princes of the Church’. Most cardinals are either archbishops of the largest dioceses in their countries or regions, or the heads of the decasteries of the Roman Curia.
Malta hasn’t had a cardinal for centuries. According to Church historians, Malta had one cardinal appointed in the year 1816 and this was Fabrizio Sceberras Testaferrata. He was appointed by Pope Pius VII.