Pope Installs 31 New Cardinals
Ailing John Paul Completes Group That Will Choose His Successor

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 22, 2003; Page A23

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 21 -- Pope John Paul II installed 31 new cardinals Tuesday in a festive ceremony on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, filling out the assembly that will elect his successor.

With the new appointees, the College of Cardinals expands to 135 voting members. The 83-year-old pope, fighting age, Parkinson's disease and near-paralysis from the waist down, has now put in place the precise set of men he wants on stage for the coming drama.

Few of the clerics known as "red hats" have been willing in recent days to discuss the subject of a new papacy. Yet with John Paul's maladies visible in every quiver of his voice and tremble of his hand, many acknowledged that succession was on their minds.

"We are aware that he is falling ill more and more. We are waiting," said Cardinal Antonio Jose Gonzalez Zumarraga, from Ecuador. He credited the pope with completing preparations for electing a successor in advance by moving up the naming of new cardinals by four months. "The Holy Father realizes that the college must be prepared for any eventuality. There is an awareness of imminent change."

Although the papacy is often described as an absolute monarchy, when a pope dies it's the cardinals who take the church's fate into their hands. Popes come and go, but the college represents the thread of continuity.

The fact that one of the electors will likely be named pope has inhibited open discussion of who might come next.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the archbishop of Brussels who is often mentioned by Vatican watchers as a potential choice, described his strategy when he is asked whether he wants to be pope. "I say nothing," he said. "If I say yes, everybody will say, 'He doesn't know what he is saying.' If I say no, they'll say, 'He's lying.' "

Tuesday's ceremony was a colorful affair, following on Vatican celebrations last week of John Paul's 25th anniversary as pontiff.

One by one, the new cardinals, each dressed in a traditional bright red mantel, walked up steps to a platform in front of St. Peter's, where the pope sat on a mobile throne. John Paul gave each a red skullcap and a biretta, a four-cornered clerical hat.

The pontiff waved to well-wishers in the crowd and seemed alert to the goings-on. In years past his voice boomed clearly across St. Peter's Square. Today, his words were virtually indecipherable.

The pope designated a home church in Rome for each new cardinal. The tradition dates from the Middle Ages, when cardinals, chosen from the neighborhood, did in fact oversee churches in and around Rome.

As the name of each new cardinal was called, hometown supporters and relatives cheered. The ceremony had the air of a high school graduation. "I never dreamed of this," said Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, as he met with reporters in the square. He was the only American among the newcomers.

One of the new cardinals did not attend the ceremony and was not identified by the Vatican, out of concern that he would be a target of retribution by his government. News reports said he was probably a bishop in China, where the government does not recognize papal appointments and maintains that it alone has the right to name officials to a body it calls the Patriotic Church.

With the new appointments, the college has 195 members, but 60 are at least 80 years old and, under the body's rules, cannot vote. Like the pope, cardinals serve for life. There is no fixed number; the pope decides how many cardinals to appoint. Their primary duties are to advise the pope and elect new popes.

Once packed with Europeans, the College of Cardinals has changed with new appointments to be more reflective of the global church. There are now 24 voting members from Latin America, 14 from North America, 18 from Asia and 13 from Africa. Sixty-six are from Europe.

Tuesday's ceremony was Pope John Paul's ninth consistory, or elevation of cardinals. He has named more than 90 percent of the cardinal electors.

This high percentage has inspired a widespread notion that the college will elect a cookie-cutter version of John Paul II. Some cardinals take issue with this analysis.

"It's like appointees to the Supreme Court," remarked Cardinal Roger Mahony, the longtime archbishop of Los Angeles. "They have their qualifications, but it doesn't mean they are not free thinkers. Everyone comes from a different reality. While we might share some of the pope's insights, we speak from our own pastoral realities."

Rigali noted that cardinals play two roles: princes of the church chosen by the pope and archbishops in charge of local communities. "In the final analysis, we make judgments according to our conscience," he said.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, the world's most populous archdiocese, said, "We have an opportunity to know each other better, in a human way. There is a responsibility to know each other." He added a cautionary note: "We are content with the pope we have. He is still here."

There is no doubt that the vast majority of the cardinals share John Paul's views opposing contraception, abortion, divorce and the ordination of women, as well as his support for the celibacy of priests.

But dissent does not mean automatic exclusion from the ranks of the cardinals. One of the newly elevated prelates, Keith O'Brien of Edinburgh, Scotland, has advocated an end to the celibacy requirement.

On key social and economic issues, the pope and a number of cardinals have taken stands that would be regarded as liberal in American political discourse. John L. Allen Jr., a journalist and the author of "Conclave," a book about procedures for electing the next pope and issues likely to be important, said at least 10 of the new cardinals are interested primarily "in social justice questions outside the church."

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet domination, the pope has frequently criticized the spread of global capitalism to the Third World as a source of growing poverty and inequality. The fact that a large contingent of cardinals come from poor countries has led some observers to speculate that the next pope will emphasize the perils of globalization as part of his preaching.

Hummes, the Brazilian cleric, said in an interview that the world's emerging "new economic order" excludes the poor and even entire countries. "If some of these countries were to disappear, no stock market in the world would fall," he said. "In this geopolitical world, all must be in the program of prosperity."

He also said that citizens of wealthy nations "invest too much in the present, in consumerism." The church must maintain a dialogue with "this culture of indifference," he said.

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