Pope Names 22 New Cardinals: U.S. Now Has 12

National Catholic Reporter, January 30, 1998 | Go to article overview

Pope Names 22 New Cardinals: U.S. Now Has 12


Pope John Paul II extended his already enormous influence over the Catholic church by appointing 22 new cardinals on Jan. 18, raising to 86 the percentage of the College of Cardinals he has personally appointed.

John Paul's unusually long papacy, stretching over two decades, has given him a degree of control over the choice of the men who will elect his successor that is rare in modern times.

The new appointments from 13 countries will bring to 123 the number of cardinals under the age of 80 who are eligible under church law to vote in the next conclave.

The list of new papal electors, including Archbishop Francis E. George of Chicago and Archbishop James F. Stafford, formerly of Denver, also raises the influence of the United States on selection of the next pope to an unprecedented degree. Stafford, one of eight Vatican officials among the appointments, became head of the Vatican's council on the laity in 1996.

The nominations of George, 60, and Stafford, 65, will bring to 12 the number of U.S. cardinals -- 10 percent of the total papal electors. All but retired Cardinal John J. Carberry of St. Louis, 93, would be eligible to vote in a conclave.

For. Thomas Reese, an authority on the church's hierarchy, said the pope had "pulled out all the stops here," exceeding the previously set limit of 120 cardinals by three. "The pope must be feeling his mortality," Reese said.

The pope said there were so many clergymen who deserved to be cardinals that he was setting aside Pope Paul VI's 1975 ruling that there should be no more than 120 cardinals under age 80 eligible to vote in a conclave. Barring deaths, there will be 123 cardinal-electors on Feb. 21.

The appointments remain unofficial until the prelates are formally made members of the College of Cardinals at a consistory, scheduled for Feb. 21 at the vatican. The consistory will be the pope's seventh such occasion in 19 years.

In an unexpected move, the pope named as cardinal Archbishop Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, Austria, who at 52 (turning 53 on Jan. 22) was the youngest churchman selected. Polycarp Pengo, 53, of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, is just a half year older. A third appointee is 55: Norberto Rivera Carrera, the archbishop of Mexico City.

Schonborn is a theologian who has gained favor through his assistance in writing the church's revised Catechism. He was appointed to the Vienna see following the resignation in 1995 of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who had been accused of sexually abusing a boy 20 years earlier.

German officials expressed surprise at the pope's decision to pass over German Archbishop Karl Lehmann, president of his country's conference of bishops.

"There's not a great amount of change in the regional breakup -- Africa lost a little, Italy gained a tiny bit, the United States and Canada did well," Reese said.

In 1994 Africa had 15 cardinals, the United States 10, Italy 20. After the new appointments, Africa has 12, the U.S. 12, Italy 22. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, in the early 1960s, the United States had only five cardinals out of a total of 82, Reese said.

In general, there were few surprises, said Reese, whose latest book is Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Harvard University Press, 1996). "Most of these are dioceses that have traditionally had cardinals," he said. Nevertheless, he said he found it interesting that the pope had passed over some men, such as Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. …

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