On the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, the day in the Liturgical Calendar which marks the end of the Church's celebration of Christmas, Pope Francis gave us one last gift for the season -- the announcement of 19 new Cardinals to be conferred the scarlet biretta on February 22nd. Given the Pope's emphasis since the beginning of his pontificate on collegiality--consider his regular references to himself as "the Bishop of Rome" and overtures to the Orthodox Patriarchs--it is worth reflecting briefly on the date of the consistory as emblematic of the collegiality and deference which the See of Rome, first among equals, has consistently shown throughout the centuries to the other Sees of our communion.
The Feast of the Chair of Peter is currently celebrated on February 22nd, the date this particular feast was held in Antioch where St. Peter was bishop before coming to Rome ultimately to be martyred. In the city of Rome itself, the feast had been celebrated on 18 January, and although prerogative to establish the dates of celebrations in the universal Church lay with Rome, deference ceded to the Antiochene tradition.
Such an act bespeaks of the right use of power and fitting disposition toward it--a topic which Pope Francis has taken up in his first message to his cardinal-designates. As indicated by the scarlet color, the office of Cardinal is at the service of the Church, even if it should call the holder to witness to the Gospel "to the point of shedding blood." (Hebrews 12:4)
Let us pray for these men that they may faithfully and worthily fulfill their new mandate.