Pope names first cardinals of pontificate
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict named 15 new cardinals, including his predecessor’s long-time secretary and a Hong Kong bishop, as he put his first stamp on the body of men who will one day elect his successor.
Benedict announced the nominations at his weekly general audience, saying the college of cardinals would act as «a sort of Senate» and help him run the Roman Catholic Church.
Eight of the new red-hatted princes of the Church come from Europe, three from Asia, two from the United States, one from South America and one from Africa.
«The list of new Cardinals well reflects the universal nature of the Church,» the German-born Pope said.
The group will be formally installed at a ceremony, known as a consistory, on March 24.
Among those named as cardinals were Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the faithful secretary of Pope John Paul II who died last April, and China’s Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the pro-democracy bishop of Hong Kong.
«The Pope is really concerned about China,» Zen told reporters after his nomination was announced.
U.S. Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston was also made a cardinal apparently in recognition of his work cleaning up after the diocese’s priestly sexual abuse scandal that forced his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, to resign in 2002.
Another American, Archbishop William Levada, whom the Pope appointed to succeed him as head of the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal department, was similarly given the nod.
«The cardinals constitute a sort of Senate around the pope which he uses to fulfil the tasks tied to his ministry,» Benedict said as he announced his list to loud applause.
There are two types of cardinal, the non-electors, who are all aged 80 and over, and the younger electors who enter a conclave to chose a new pope after a papal death.
Church rules set a ceiling of 120 such electors. There are currently 110, but two men turn 80 before April.
To make sure the Church has a full complement of cardinal electors, the Pope’s list included 12 men aged under 80.
One of the key nominations was that of Bishop Zen, an outspoken critic of China’s human rights record who has had a prickly relation with Beijing, which does not allow Chinese Catholics to recognize papal authority.
«It seems that in picking Zen they are not too afraid of picking somebody who is obviously not on good terms with the Chinese government,» said Ma Ngok, assistant professor of social sciences at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. South Korea’s Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk is another new cardinal with a link to a communist country as he also heads the Roman Catholic diocese in the capital of North Korea.
Among those widely tipped for a red hat but who were not on the list were Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland and Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, who was bypassed in favor of Bordeaux Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, head of the French Bishops’ Conference.
Pope John Paul held nine consistories during his 26-year reign and created more than 200 cardinals. All but 2 of the prelates who entered the conclave following his death last year had been made cardinals by him.
Benedict invited all members of the College of Cardinals to attend the March 24 consistory — the first time they will all gather at the Vatican since last year’s papal transition.