On November 20 Pope Benedict XVI will preside at a ceremony in the Vatican at which 24 new Cardinals will be presented the red hat that symbolizes their office as papal electors. Two of the new Cardinals are American, Archbishop Raymond Burke, an official in the Vatican, and Archbishop Donald Wuerl, ordinary of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The event is called a consistory, which is a meeting of all cardinals in Rome. Scholars differ on the history of the office of Cardinal, but since 1059 a.d., they have been the electors of popes.
The two American Cardinal-elects reflect that fact that many Cardinals, like Archbishop Burke, live and work in Rome as part of the Curia or central office of the Church; others, like Archbishop Wuerl, are residential bishops from around the world, usually from large and important cities.
Each new Cardinal will be presented with a red biretta by the Pope at the consistory on Nov. 20. He will also have another red hat which is never worn, but is shown on his coat of arms and placed at the end of his casket when he dies and later is hung in his cathedral church. That red hat is broad brimmed and has 15 tassels hanging from each side.
Cardinals are also consultors to the Holy Father on matters of importance to the universal Church. An example is the fact that the college will meet on November 19th, the day before the installation of the new Cardinals, for a day of prayer and reflection on pivotal issues facing the Church including religious freedom, liturgy in he life of the Church and the issue of sexual abuse.
The number of Cardinals who may serve as papal electors is presently limited to 121. When a cardinal reaches the age of 80, he no longer may serve as a papal elector. So the number of cardinals may exceed 121 but not the number of those eligible to participate in a conclave, which is the assembly of Cardinals to elect a new Pope.
Among those participating in the consistory will be Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. Cardinal DiNardo was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2007 and is the first prelate to be appointed to the Sacred College from the southern portion of the United States.