There is a great deal of new focus upon the cardinals of the Church. Maybe a short thought on what a Cardinal is and does might be helpful. More info can be found in greater detail elsewhere, but here is a brief summary.
The Cardinals have been called the "Princes of the Church", but that term grew out of a papacy that was more than just spiritual leadership. At one time, as I mentioned before, the Pope was also a civil ruler, a king, if you will, the head of the Papal States and other temporal holding. His chosen aides or counselors, we called "princes". Originally the term cardinal simply meant belonging to a particular church or diocese. Even today, when a priest joins a diocese, he is "incardinated" - attached to a particular diocese.
The Cardinals of the Catholic Church serve as the advisers to the pope. They are chosen for their holiness, their wisdom and/or their leadership abilities. They often head prestigious dioceses around the world, or are in important positions of responsibility. Each cardinal, when named, is given the primary pastorship of one of the churches in the Diocese of Rome (even though another oversees the daily running of the parish). Thus, the cardinals are the pastors and collaborators of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Holy Father. There are three levels or ranks of Cardinal: Cardinal Deacons, Cardinal Priests, and Cardinal Bishops. All are bishops, yet the ranking lists them in levels of responsibility among the College of Cardinals.
During this interregnum period, or sede vacante, the Cardinals of the Church have responsibility for the interim guidance of the Church. The primary responsibility of those under 80 years of age as Cardinal Electors is the selection of the new Holy Father. They do this at Conclave, gathering from all corners of the globe but also as pastors of the parishes of Rome. They choose their Bishop, their Chief Shepherd, who is the successor of Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and head of the Church. It is an awesome responsibility. Pray for the Cardinal Electors.
A cute story ...
Last Friday at our parish Lenten Fish Dinner, as I was at my post as the official "greeter" of those attending, a family with two young boys stood in line. I'm not sure how old they were, but they each had a small stuffed bunny rabbit, one blue and white and the other beige and white. I spoke to them, asked them if they were hungry, etc, and commented on the bunny rabbits. I was told the rabbits names, and made a bit of a fuss (both the kids and the bunnies were cute).
Saturday evening before Mass one of the little ones came into Church with the grown up who brought him. He came over to me and presented me with an identical bunny rabbit (this one green and white) as my own. He insisted that he be able to stop and purchase this rabbit for me. I thanked him profusely, promised to give the bunny a good home and a good name, and went to get ready for Mass. A minute or two later, in pops the youngster to tell me that the bunny already has a name - he named him "Peppermint". So, Peppermint will join my other Easter decorations, and bring a smile to my face. Art Linkletter used to say that "Kids say the darnedest things" ... and sometimes they do the darnedest, and cutest, things.