Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said this in the most recent edition of the Vatican Television Center weekly news program "Octava Dies." The meeting of the College of Cardinals, called a consistory, began today with a daylong session of prayer and study.
The appointment of new cardinals "is always awaited with intense curiosity not only in the Church but also by outside observers," said Father Lombardi. "No sooner the Pope announces the names of the new cardinals, a whole series of commentaries begins from the most diverse points of view, of statistical observations, of calculations of relative weight of nationalities, continents, etc."
In fact, explained the Vatican spokesman, "in his appointments the Pope has very different criteria, outstanding among which is certainly the importance of the tasks carried out in the ecclesial service and the universality of the representation."
This College of Cardinals, the priest explained, constitutes "a group of personalities of the first order, to whom is entrusted the crucial duty of electing the Successor of Peter, but who must also collaborate with and support the Pope in his ministry with full spiritual solidarity."
Prayer and reflection
The day of prayer and reflection with which the November consistory begins, "despite its inevitable brevity," shows two important aspects of the "function and spirit with which the College of Cardinals works: prayer and reflection," said Father Lombardi.
"The Pope wants to pray with those who must support his service more closely and wants to participate in their common reflection," he explained, alluding to the first part of the consistory, during which the cardinals debate on issues of current importance.
Father Lombardi noted that Benedict XVI not only presided at today's session, but that he also dines with the cardinals, "certainly a secondary detail, but not deprived of significance."
"It is a community that meets, that shares responsibilities and concerns for the main problems the Church faces in the world," the Jesuit stated.
The Holy Father "follows and listens to each intervention with very great attention, as he did during the weeks of the Synod of Bishops, as he does in the continual 'ad limina' [five-yearly] visits of groups of bishops from all over the world -- at least 20 different groups every year -- in innumerable conversations and audiences."
"His service is profoundly inserted in the experience of the worldwide episcopate," explained Father Lombardi.
Now, he added, "the days of the consistory highlight a more 'collegial' dimension of his style of governing the Church."