Pope Benedict XVI said he wanted his Nov. 24 consistory, the fifth of his papacy, to express the universality of Catholicism. His choice of six new cardinals from every continent except Europe was designed to convey, as he put it Saturday, that the church belongs “to all the peoples” and expresses itself “in the various cultures of the different continents.”
If my experience at Rome’s Urban College yesterday is any indication, you can consider the point made.
Over the years I’ve covered seven consistories, the events in which a pope creates new cardinals. As part of the experience, I’ve also attended scores of post-consistory receptions, both the ones staged by the Vatican inside the Apostolic Palace (the only time that the doors of the place are flung open to the general public), and ones hosted by other parties – diplomatic embassies, Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, and so on.
By any standard, the reception my wife and I witnessed on Sunday afternoon was not your typical Roman affair. It featured not one but three different African dance and vocal troupes, a buffet with classic African dishes such as tuwo shinkafa (a thick rice pudding served with spicy soup), and the new cardinal himself sashaying to the head table as drums pounded and Ibo singers serenaded his arrival.
He continues with description that seems to capture the flavor of the event. Follow the link to this National Catholic Reporter story for a very brief but illustrative graphic that also tells the story of the event.
In conclusion he writes,
In sum, both the reception on Sunday and the man who was at the heart of it illustrate not only the universality of the church, but also just how relevant it can be, no matter what global neighborhood we’re talking about, when a leader comes along who knows how to spend its moral and social capital wisely.