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Pope Francis

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What is a cardinal?

2012-11-20

CARD. JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"Cardinals make up a group of bishops who work directly and in a very special way with the Holy Father, in what is basically the government of the Universal Church. Cardinals are the Pope's direct and immediate advisers.”

The occasion when the Pope officially elevates the new cardinals is called a Consistory of Cardinals. And at the ceremony they are given a ring and red biretta.

CARD. JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"The cardinal's ring symbolisez unity, so it represents the Cardinal's marriage with the Church.”

They are called princes of the Church because they are the closest collaborators of the Pope. A title and a recognition that is also evident in the red sash and biretta. In addition, the color is unique and it distinguishes them from other priests and bishops. Red reminds them that they are willing to die for Christ and His Church and even shed their blood for it. It’s a special recognition that brings with it a great responsibility.

CARD. JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"Cardinals wear red because it's a way to express that they are always ready and willing to die for Christ, for the faith and for the Church. In short, they are ready to be martyrs.”

The Cardinals often lead major dioceses in the world, but their unique responsibility is voting in a conclave. It's part of an election process that is carried out under the strictest secrecy. Failure to comply can even result in excommunication. A maximum of 120 cardinals under the age of 80 can vote in the conclave to elect the new Pope of the Catholic Church.

CARD. JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"All cardinals have this extremely delicate responsibility. It's very important, because really it's something decisive for the Church. Of course, choosing the future Pope it's extremely important.”

And although it is not as well known to the public, cardinals also have the privilege of requesting an audience with the Pope.


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