The Holy See
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Synod Hall 
Thursday, 23 March 2006


Most Blessed Father,

As Dean of the College of Cardinals, I have the honour of extending to you the devout greeting of all the Cardinals present as well as my personal greeting. We are all deeply grateful to you for having wished to convoke us for this day of prayer and reflection for a joint action that will adhere ever more closely to the great pastoral challenges of this time.

Those Members of the College who have been unable to take part in the Consistory, because of pressing pastoral commitments in their Sees or on health grounds, are spiritually united to us.

I would especially like to recall venerable Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the Dean emeritus of our College who now lives in his own Country, Benin, in Cotonou. Like him, other Cardinals have sent messages and greetings, excusing themselves for their absence. Please consider them present in spirit, Your Holiness, and give them your heartfelt Blessing.

The prayer we have just prayed with the Successor of Peter at the beginning of this Consistory has enabled us to relive the spiritual atmosphere that prevailed in the Upper Room before Pentecost, when the Apostles were gathered in prayer with Peter and Mary while awaiting the Holy Spirit.

Holy Father, as from tomorrow our College of Cardinals will consist of 193 Members, 120 of whom are Cardinal Electors, while the others have already passed the venerable age of 80.

From the number of Members who formed part of our College at the time of the Conclave last year, it is obviously necessary to subtract Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, raised to Chair of Peter, and the four deceased Cardinals, Cardinal Sin, Cardinal Caprio, Cardinal Scheffczyk and Cardinal Taofinu'u, who are now in Heaven praying for us. We feel them spiritually present here.

The commitment to do justice to our mission in the Church, which is clearly summed up by the Code of Canon Law in the 11 canons (349-359) that concern us, and precisely, in the Chapter "De Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalibus", is our constant concern.

In this chapter, what the Church expects of us is masterfully recalled. And you have now convoked us, Your Holiness, precisely so that we may carry out this task better.

Many of us work in the various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, at the service of the Successor of Peter. However, we all remember what is established by can. 349 of the Code of Canon Law, namely:  "The Cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff collegially when they are called together to deal with questions of major importance; they do so individually when they assist the Roman Pontiff especially in the daily care of the universal Church by means of the different offices which they perform".

Next, on behalf of all my beloved Cardinal Confreres who have arrived here from various countries of the world, I would like to tell the Holy Father Benedict XVI that we are all close to him every day with our prayers and our affection in Christ, the Supreme Pastor of our souls.

The convocation of this Consistory, Your Holiness, reveals to everyone the great importance that you attach to our College of Cardinals. It is true that after the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, another consultative body came into being, the "Synodus Episcoporum". However, both these institutions are complementary and, in harmony of intentions, contribute to helping the Supreme Pontiff in his pastoral concern for God's entire Holy Church.

Your Holiness will now point out to us the topics on which you would like to hear our opinion and take into consideration our recommendations.

Thank you, Holy Father!