There has been no formal announcement, but Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras said Pope John Paul II called the meeting to discuss a letter he issued in January that raised such issues as the church's missionary activities, the need for a spirit of reconciliation, and the sharing of authority among bishops.
The Vatican on Sunday confirmed the meeting, indicating it would take place after the pope returns from a pilgrimage in early May to Syria and Malta.
The Honduran prelate was one of a record 44 new cardinals elevated by the pope last week.
The May meeting will bring together both the 135 cardinals under the age and eligible to vote for a pope and those over 80.
The forum will certainly put a spotlight on the College of Cardinals, the body that will someday elect a successor from its ranks to John Paul, now 80.
The last time they all met was in 1994 to discuss John Paul's plans for the church's Holy Year in 2000, a meeting that saw a split among the cardinals over the pope's proposal--which he went ahead with--to ask pardon for the sins of Roman Catholics over the centuries.
Sharing authority among bishops--known in church parlance as collegiality--is particularly sensitive because of the pope's central role in the Roman Catholic church. John Paul, in response to concerns by other Christian denominations, has called for reflections on the role of the papacy, without spelling out how the pope's authority might be reduced.
The Honduran cardinal, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to John Paul, said Saturday evening churches in the developing world, most concerned with poverty and corruption, certainly had different agendas than those in Europe and North America.
He downplayed the issue of collegiality, telling reporters there was ``an ocean'' between Central America and Rome.