January 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 23
Some Surprises Among New Cardinal Nominees as Balance Shifts to Third World

    VATICAN, Jan. 22, 01 (CWNews.com) -- By naming 37 new members to the College of Cardinals, to be elevated to that office at a consistory in February 21, Pope John Paul II surpassed his previous high total for new cardinals, and provided a few mild surprises as well.

    The February 21 consistory will be the 8th of this pontificate. But in previous consistories, John Paul never created more than 30 new cardinals at one time.

    Of the 37 prelates on the list announced by the Pope on Sunday, 12 are now working at the Vatican-- in most cases, in high offices that are routinely held by cardinals. However, three of those Vatican officials would not ordinarily qualify as "obvious" candidates for the red hat. They are:

  • Bishop Walter Kasper, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. A Pontifical Council is often (but by no means always) headed by a cardinal; but it is unprecedented that the second-ranking official would also wear a red hat. Still, the German bishop, who formerly headed the Rottenburg diocese, is widely expected to become president of the Council when Cardinal Edward Cassidy retires. (Cardinal Cassidy is 77 years old, and has already submitted his resignation as required at the age of 75.) And Bishop Kasper was a prominent theologian before becoming a bishop.

  • Archbishop Jorge Maria Mejia, the Vatican archivist and librarian. A polyglot scholar from Argentina, Archbishop Mejia has played an important role in inter-religious affairs. He helped organize the Pope's visit to Rome's synagogue in April 1986, and the inter- religious day of prayer at Assisi in October of that year. He has also assisted in the drafting of the Pope's social encyclicals, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and Centesimus Annus.

  • Father Robert Tucci, SJ, has been the "advance man" for papal trips for several years, negotiating and preparing the often sensitive details of the Pope's itinerary. Since Pope John XXIII established the policy that all cardinals should be bishops, Father Tucci-- like Msgr. Scheffczyk and Father Dulles (see below)-- will be consecrated a bishop prior to the consistory.

        Among the other new cardinals, 23 are now archbishops or retired archbishops of major sees. Again, a few of the names deserve special notice:

  • Patriarch Ignace Moussa I Daoud is the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. That title would ordinarily entail a place in the College of Cardinals. But the Syrian prelate was already the Patriarch of Antioch and head of the Syrian Catholic Church-- a position which outranks that of cardinal. Although he resigned his patriarchate in order to take up his new duties at the Vatican, Pope John Paul announced that he would retain the title of Patriarch.

  • Patriarch Stephanos Ghattos of Alexandria is the current head of the Coptic Catholic Church-- again, a title that takes precedence over that of cardinal. He will become one of three patriarchs in the College of Cardinals, joining Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, and Patriarch Daoud.

  • Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamalay, India, is the ranking prelate of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Although he does not rank as a Patriarch, he does head a "major archdiocese"-- a see designated as first among the dioceses of the Syro-Malabar rite.

  • Msgr. Leo Scheffczyk, a German priest of the Munich archdiocese, is being honored for his contributions to the work of the Church, most recently through his work with the Pontifical Council for the Family.

  • Father Avery Dulles, SJ is recognized as the dean of American theologians, and a voice for concord during sometimes contentious theological disputes.

        The consistory of February 21 will change the composition of the College of Cardinals, giving greater weight to the Third World and especially Latin America.

        The College of Cardinals will (barring the death of a current or prospective cardinal) have 178 members after the consistory. Of these, 128 will be under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave. Pope John Paul II has named 118 of those cardinal- electors-- 92 percent of the total.

        The cardinal-electors represent 57 different countries. Europe remains the most heavily represented continent, with 60 cardinals (Italy has 24 cardinals; France, Germany, and Poland have 5 apiece). The February consistory will add 10 new cardinals from Latin America, bringing the total for that continent up to 26. (Brazil, with 7, and Mexico and Colombia with 3, head the list.) There will be 13 cardinals from North America, 13 from Asia, 12 from Africa, and 4 from Oceania.

    For other news stories, see

    January 23, 2001
    volume 12, no. 23
    News from Rome

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