A consistory is a gathering of cardinals with the pope. According to canon law, an ordinary consistory is called for consultation or for the celebration "of especially solemn acts," such as the creation of new cardinals or a vote approving the canonization of candidates for sainthood.
Pope Benedict XVI will create 22 new cardinals on the morning on February 18, 2012 during an ordinary public consistory in St. Peter's Basilica.
The general format has been maintained for this consistory, but the rites have been revised and simplified, with the approval of the Holy Father, to avoid any impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament like ordination.
The opening and closing prayers will be the ancient prayers, which were drawn upon in 1969 when Pope Paul VI held his first consistory using a prayer service designed after the Second Vatican Council. The prayer service also will be shorter, eliminating the first reading and including only the Gospel reading: Mark 10:32-45, in which Jesus explains to the disciples that he came to serve, not be served.
The ceremony begins when the cardinal-designates enter the hall in a specific order, non-alphabetical, previously determined, that establishes their order of precedence within the Sacred College for the remainder of their lifetimes, unless they are promoted to a higher class within the College.
The ceremony will be made up of three traditional elements:
1. The imposition of the red biretta, where the pope will say:
"To the glory of Almighty God and the honour of the Apostolic See, receive the scarlet biretta as a sign of the dignity of the cardinalate, signifying your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquillity of the people of God and for the freedom and growth of Holy Roman Church."
2. The consignment of the ring, where the pope will say:
"Receive the ring from the hands of Peter and know that your love for the Church is strengthened by the love of the Prince of the Apostles."
3. The assignation of titular churches or deaconry, where the pope will say:
"To the honour of Almighty God and of Saints Peter and Paul, we entrust you with the title/deaconry of N. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
(Another small change to this year's consistory involves timing; the rings were previously presented at a separate ceremony on a different day.)
The pope will also inform the new cardinals of their new broadened responsibilities and the many challenges that will face them in this extended service to the Church.
You may download the official booklet for the celebration for more details.
More about titular churches
When an individual is named a cardinal, he is given title to a parish church (usually in Rome). The titles are largely honorary and do not provide any jurisdiction. However, many cardinals living in Rome are involved in the pastoral life of their titular churches, and those living outside Rome often visit their titular churches when they are in Rome. These churches connect the cardinals in a unique way as members of the clergy of Rome in service to the pontiff.
This will be the fourth time Pope Benedict has created new cardinals and will bring his total to 84 cardinals, of whom 79 are still alive; 63 of his appointees in the College of Cardinals will be under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
Once the new cardinals are created, the College of Cardinals will have a record-high number of members. The total number of princes of the church will reach 213, surpassing the total of 203 reached with the consistory in 2010. As recently as 2001, the total number of cardinals dipped to 139 just before Pope John Paul II named a record 44 cardinals at once.
Creating cardinals: Ceremony features something old, new, borrowed, red - Catholic News Service
Ceremony Changing for Next Consistory - Zenit
February consistory to creat new cardinals will feature changes - U.S. Catholics
Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals - Booklet for the Celebration - vatican.va