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Pope installs 44 new Cardinals

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February 22, 2001 


VATICAN CITY (AP) To the cheers of tens of thousands of well-wishers, 44 new cardinals climbed the steps of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday, knelt before Pope John Paul II and followed an ancient ceremony that makes them princes of the church.

The geographical diversity of the group which included men from five continents was also evident: Some chose not to wear the red hat with three ridges customarily worn by cardinals, opting instead for their traditional headgear.

``Is this not also a sign of the ability of the church, already in every corner of the planet, to understand peoples with different traditions and languages?'' the pope said.

The number of cardinals installed was a record, as John Paul raised the church's profile in sensitive areas of the world and expanded the group that will choose his successor.

Some cardinals popped on sunglasses against the glare as John Paul, his voice at times slurred, read their names.

``I tried not to think of my mother because I was afraid I might cry,'' the newly installed Cardinal Roberto Tucci, a 79-year-old Italian Jesuit who organizes the pope's travels, recalled at a reception a few hours later.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C., one of four U.S. citizens elevated, had a different worry: ``I was thinking, `I hope I don't trip.' But of course I was also thinking that hopefully this moment will give me the grace to do the work I must do.''

The new cardinals reflected the pope's strategy for the church of 1 billion adherents in the new millennium.

John Paul beefed up the Latin American contingent, elevated prelates from the Middle East, where the church is struggling to survive, and installed two Ukrainians, a new battleground for the church in those parts of eastern Europe traditionally under the influence of the Orthodox church.

John Paul's planned trip to Ukraine in June has drawn criticism from the Russian Orthodox.

Cardinals serve as advisers to popes, but their most important job is to elect a successor to the pontiff.

John Paul, now in the 23rd year of his papacy, turns 81 in May; his frail physical condition, with symptoms of Parkinson's disease, is evident.

Speaking for the other new princes of the church, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, an Italian some see as a possible papal successor, alluded to the pope's condition while saying he hoped John Paul would remain a ``long time at the helm of the church.''

In naming a record number of cardinals, John Paul ignored the limit set by a predecessor, Paul VI, on the number of cardinals under 80 eligible to vote for a pope. There are now 135 cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave.

All but 10 have been named by John Paul and share his conservative views, supporting church bans on abortion, the use of artificial birth control and changes in the requirement that priests must be celibate.

There are exceptions: Among the new cardinals is Karl Lehmann, who as head of the German bishops conference unsuccessfully sought to have the Vatican lift its ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion.

Asked about his thoughts on a future pope and if there were an ``Italian vocation'' for the papacy, Lehmann said, ``Maybe there has been an Italian vocation for the papacy over the centuries, but we live in a world with much wider horizons now and we have to look everywhere for the best man.''

Rousing cheers went up when the pope pronounced the names of Fordham University theologian Avery Dulles, New York Archbishop Edward Egan and Washington Archbishop McCarrick.

Asked about dissent in the church a major issue in the United States Egan replied: ``Do you know any religion, do you know any organization, do you know any society, do you know any club in which everybody follows every rule?

``Now I know the Catholic church shouldn't be an exception, but I wouldn't be too upset that we don't get it 100 percent all the time.''

Dulles, at 82, the oldest of the new cardinals, used a cane to walk up the steps of St. Peter's. The last to kneel before the pontiff, after Dulles embraced the pope and stood up, his biretta a cardinal's red hat tumbled off.

The leader of Eastern Rite Catholics in Ukraine, Lubomyr Husar, also a U.S. citizen, kept his traditional black hood during the ceremony. And Syrian patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud kept his black, flat-topped hat.

Among the first to go up was Vietnamese Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, 72, who was imprisoned by Communists after the 1975 fall of Saigon.

The red color reserved for cardinals represents the challenge the pope presents them before they take their oath: ``Be ready to spill blood if need be to spread the faith.''

``Every Christian knows he is called to a faithfulness without compromise, which can require even the extreme sacrifice,'' the pope said in his homily.

Behind the unchanging ritual is the changing face of the Catholic church at the start of its third millennium less European, and more developing world, where the faith is expanding.

Europe still has 96 cardinals, but many are not eligible to vote for a new pope.

The largest number after Europeans are Latin Americans, 33, with 27 of voting age. Latin America has about 40 percent of the world's Catholics.

``Soccer and the church are the two things that really move people in South America,'' said the Rev. Vladimir Jaramillo, who led a parish contingent from Cali, Colombia.

Among the new Latin American cardinals is one who some observers say has a shot at being pontiff: Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 58, the first cardinal from Honduras.

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