Pope Francis made an unexpected change Tuesday in the structure of the College of Cardinals, adding some curial officials to the rank of “cardinal bishops,” the highest rank within the college.

The College of Cardinals is structured in three orders, or ranks: the order of “cardinal deacons,” the order of “cardinal priests,” and the order of “cardinal bishops.”

There are customarily six cardinal bishops from the Latin Church, who are given a particular ceremonial title as the “titular bishops” of Rome’s ancient suburbicarian sees. The dean of the College of Cardinals is also assigned as titular bishop of the Roman see of Ostia.

Those elevated to the rank of cardinal bishop are Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect for the Congregation of Bishops; Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People.
Among these new cardinal bishops, Cardinal Filoni was until now a cardinal deacon, while the others were all cardinal priests.
The Pope’s June 26 rescript says that “in the last decades” the College of Cardinals has expanded, thus increasing the number of cardinal priests and deacons, while the number of cardinal bishops has stayed untouched with time, and so the pope made the decision to expand that group.

The decision derogates from canons 350 and 352 of the Code of Canon Law, and will come into effect since the next June 28.

The present cardinal bishops, in addition those named today, are Tarcisio Bertone (Frascati), José Saraiva Martins (Palestrina), Roger Etchegaray (Porto Santa Rufina), Giovanni Battista Re (Poggio Mirteto) and Francis Arinze (Velletri-Segni).

Some have speculated that Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria is likely to be appointed to the order of cardinal-bishop, as is as Cardinal-elect Konrad Krajewski, Papal Almoner.

Far from being just honorific titles, the ranks of cardinals give them specific obligations.

For example, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, elected from among the cardinal bishops, presides at the conclave for the election of the pope. The Dean has also the responsibility to communicate the pope’s death to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and to the heads of nations, he represents the Holy See during the sede vacante, and he is the one who asks the pope-elect if he accepts the election, and what name he will take.

 Full story at Catholic News Agency.