VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II concelebrated Mass this morning with the 44 bishops and priests whom he made cardinals a day earlier, gave them their rings, and invited them to pray for the unification of all Christians.
"The ardent desire of Christ is the full and visible communion of all the communities," the Holy Father said during the Mass in St. Peter's Square. "[To] this primary end the cardinals, either as a college or individually, can and must offer their precious contribution. They are the first collaborators of the ministry of unity of the Roman Pontiff."
The day's liturgy celebrated the Chair of St. Peter, image of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, symbol of communion in the Church.
The Pope invited the cardinals to pray so that in the new millennium the full communion of Christians will be re-established.
"May the Holy Spirit give all believers the necessary light and strength to realize the Lord's ardent desire," the Holy Father said. "I ask you to assist me and collaborate in all possible ways in this difficult mission."
The culminating moment of the ceremony was the bestowal of the cardinals' rings. Before doing so, the Holy Father explained to the new cardinals that this gesture "highlights the special bond that unites you to this Apostolic See."
"Today," he said, "Christ repeats to each one of you: 'I have prayed for you,' so that your faith will not weaken in situations to which it might be subjected, in greater proof of your fidelity to Christ, the Church and the Pope.
"May this prayer, which constantly springs form the heart of the Good Shepherd, always be your strength! Do not doubt that, as it was for Christ and Peter, so it will be for you: His effective witness will always be marked by the cross."
Beginning Friday, some of the new cardinals will take possession of the churches in Rome which have been assigned to them by the Pope. Originally, cardinals were priests who collaborated with the bishop of Rome.
At 4:30 p.m., Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, archbishop of New York, will take possession of the Church of Saints John and Paul in the Roman Square of the same name. At 5:30 p.m. Cardinal Avery Dulles, renowned U.S. Jesuit theologian, will take possession of the Church of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
On Saturday, at 10:30 a.m. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima, Peru, will take possession of the Church of St. Camillus of Lellis, and in the afternoon, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, will take possession of St. Jerome of Charity.
On Sunday, at 11 a.m., Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, will take possession of the presbyterial title of the parish of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
A day after 44 new cardinals were created, Rome received the news of the death of Venezuelan Cardinal José Ali Lebrún Moratinos, archbishop emeritus of Caracas. He was 81.
As soon as he heard the news this morning, John Paul II expressed his sympathy to newly created Cardinal Ignacio Antonio Velasco García, the deceased cardinal's successor, and sent a message to the whole diocesan community, which was addressed to the apostolic nuncio in Venezuela.
Vatican Radio reported that, in the message, the Pope assured the Venezuelan faithful of his prayers for the cardinal's eternal repose, and referred to his pastoral commitment to implement the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and promote the renewal of the Church.
Cardinal Lebrún was born in Puerto Cabello, Archdiocese of Valencia, Venezuela, on March 9, 1919. He was ordained a priest Dec. 19, 1943, in Valencia, and eventually became spiritual director and rector of the archdiocese's seminary.
On Aug. 2, 1956, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Maracaibo and apostolic administrator the following year. On March 19, 1962, he was transferred to the See of Valencia, Venezuela, and attended Vatican II from 1962 to 1965.
He was appointed archbishop of Caracas by John Paul II on May 24, 1980. The Holy Father created him cardinal on Feb. 2, 1983. Cardinal Lebrún resigned from the pastoral government of the archdiocese on May 27, 1995.
With Cardinal Lebrún's death, there are now 183 cardinals, 135 of whom could vote for a pope in a conclave.
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