.- The Vatican is refusing to deny media speculation that Pope Benedict XVI will announce a list of new cardinals as early as tomorrow.
“You will have to wait for an announcement but there is no announcement to be made at the moment,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told CNA Jan. 5.
Several Italian newspapers are claiming that the Pope will announce he is convoking a consistory in Rome for Saturday, Feb. 18.
If Pope Benedict calls for a consistory – the gathering at which new cardinals are installed – it will be the fourth since his election in 2005.
At present, there are 192 members of the College of Cardinals. By the time a February consistory is convened, there will be only 107 of them under the age of 80, which is the limit for voting in a conclave to elect the next Pope. A conclave can have a maximum of 120 electors.
The United States currently has 17 cardinals but only 10 of them can serve as electors.
The two American archbishops who are expected to receive the red hat at the next consistory are Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Now based in Rome, Archbishop O’Brien was formerly the Archbishop of Baltimore until August 2011.
It is customary that the honor of being named a cardinal is not given to any bishops whose predecessor is also a cardinal and under the age of 80. In the case of Archbishop Dolan, though, his predecessor Cardinal Edward Egan will turn 80 on April 2.
Other names being suggested in the Italian media include several senior members of the Roman Curia, such as Archbishop Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide, Archbishop Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Prefect for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorship of the State of Vatican City.
Other names most tipped for a red hat are Archbishop Rainer Woelki of Berlin, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, and Archbishop Wim Eijk of Utrecht, Holland.