New Croatian Cardinal
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Ailing Pope Appoints 31 New Cardinals
By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY - Amid concerns about his frail health, Pope John
Paul II appointed 31 cardinals Sunday, acting months earlier
than expected and strengthening his influence on the group
that will chose his successor.
The new "princes" of the church include senior Vatican
officials and diocesan leaders from 20 countries. They will
receive their red hats at a ceremony known as a consistory on
Oct. 21 _ a date chosen to coincide with the weeklong
celebrations marking John Paul's 25th anniversary as pope.
Several names mentioned in the Italian media as possible new
cardinals weren't on the pope's list _ including Archbishop
Sean O'Malley, who took over the Boston archdiocese to clean
it up from the sex abuse scandal that rocked the American
O'Malley didn't refer to the omission in a statement Sunday,
instead congratulating the only American on the list, Justin
Rigali, the archbishop-elect of Philadelphia.
The 68-year-old Rigali is a Los Angeles native who was
previously archbishop of St. Louis. He is a conservative and
has championed two of the pope's favorite causes _ publicly
condemning abortion and the death penalty.
"The rumors were out, but the news came very quickly. It's a
great honor to be part of the Pope's council," Rigali said as
he entered the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in
downtown Kansas City, Mo., where he was attending a Mass.
St. Louis Archdiocese Vicar General Monsignor Richard Stika
described Rigali's reaction as "humble excitement."
"It's kind of a bittersweet moment for us. He's been our
spiritual father for nine and a half years," Stika said Sunday
shortly after speaking with Rigali.
The College of Cardinals is already mainly made up of
like-minded conservatives and the new batch will further
cement the pope's influence on the choice of his successor.
Prior to Sunday's announcement, the College of Cardinals had
164 members _ 109 of them under age 80 and thus eligible to
vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Of the eligible
voters, all but five were named by John Paul.
Birthdays and overall old age mean the number of College of
Cardinal members is constantly in flux, but the traditional
maximum is 120 voters. John Paul has had no qualms about
surpassing that number _ doing so at the last two consistories
in 2001 and 1998.
The latest appointments bring to at least 135 the number of
cardinals under 80.
Vatican officials had said no consistory was expected before
the end of the year; February 2004 had been mentioned as a
possible date, because the previous two consistories were held
in that month.
No explanation was given for why the pope acted sooner. But
Vatican officials said privately that with the College of
Cardinals and heads of national bishops conferences already
coming to Rome for the anniversary celebrations _ as well as
the pope's declining health _ an October consistory seemed
John Paul, who is 83 and suffers from Parkinson's disease,
announced the new cardinals from his studio window overlooking
St. Peter's Square. He read out the list with great
difficulty, stopping to catch his breath several times before
finishing each man's title.
One of the 31 on the list was unidentified, perhaps because he
works in a country where the church is oppressed.
The new cardinals include archbishops from Nigeria, France,
Sudan, Spain, Scotland, Brazil, Ghana, India, Australia,
Croatia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Hungary, Canada, Italy as well as
Rigali. Among the appointments was George Pell, the archbishop of
Sydney, Austraila, who has been the focus of controversy in
the past. He was cleared of sex abuse allegations last year,
but has drawn anger for saying abortion was worse than sex
abuse by priests _ a comment he said was taken out of context
_ and refusing to give communion to gays.
"I think it further shows the church to be representing many
elements that I think are not doing the church very much good
at the moment," Canberra Bishop Pat Power told Australian
Broadcasting Corp. radio.
John Paul also named some top Vatican officials, including the
French-born foreign minister Jean-Louis Tauran and prelates
from Spain, Mexico, Japan and Italy who run other Vatican
offices or commissions that traditionally come with a red hat.
By naming cardinals for Vietnam, Sudan and Nigeria, the pope
appeared to be trying to strengthen the position of his
leaders in countries where the Roman Catholic Church often has
difficulties with government officials or there are
Perhaps the greatest surprise was the absence on the list of
O'Malley, who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law as Boston
archbishop after Law resigned in December amid public outcry
over the sex scandal. O'Malley has been working quickly to
settle lawsuits brought by victims of clerical abuse and to
bring some normalcy back to the archdiocese.
While there was no explanation for O'Malley's absence, one
possible reason was that the pope was reluctant to name a
cardinal from Boston while Law is still of voting age and
serving on several Vatican commissions.
However, there is precedent: The pope gave Vienna Archbishop
Christoph Schoenborn his red hat in February 1998, while his
predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, was still of voting
age. Groer had been forced to relinquish his duties as Vienna
Archbishop in April 1998 because of a sex scandal.
Rigali has critics among advocates for victims of clerical sex
abuse. One leading activist, David Clohessy, national director
of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, has said
Rigali has been among the least compassionate American bishops
in dealing with the clerical sex abuse crisis.
The Oct. 21 consistory will cap a busy week for the pope, who
will preside over an evening Mass on Oct. 16 _ the anniversary
of his election _ as well as the beatification of Mother
Teresa three days later. In-between, he will have other public
appearances and speeches, and now will preside over the
The pope suffers from hip and knee ailments, in addition to
Parkinson's, which makes it almost impossible for him to walk.
During his recent trip to Slovakia, he was unable to finish
his speeches, and just this week had to miss his weekly
Wednesday audience because of an intestinal problem.
He also has days when he appears stronger, including Saturday,
when he seemed alert and relatively strong during a 20-minute
meeting with the president of the Philippines and an evening
Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
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