An article in the latest National Catholic Reporter asks if Pope Francis could make women cardinals, suggesting that the idea is ‘a pipe dream and an opening’ (you can read the original article by David Gibson here).
We know there have been lay men appointed cardinals in the past – the last one died in 1899. The article mentions that Jacques Maritain and Mother Teresa were both invited by popes to become cardinals, but both declined.
There is at present a limit of 120 for the number of cardinals to elect a Pope. This number has a biblical significance, perhaps most of all where we read in Acts 1:15: “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about 120 persons) and said . . . ”
Perhaps an important question is: Would we want women or lay men to be appointed cardinals in the current structures with all the power play etc? Should Pope Francis insist that the system be reformed first? Or should the appointments be made, trusting that the new appointees would not just fall in with the system, but would rather assist in the reform? Is it a chicken and egg situation?
Alternatively, should the college of cardinals be abolished altogether, and a new system of electing Popes be developed?
How would you advise Pope Francis?