January 30, 2001
volume 12, no. 30

Why a Second Group of Cardinals? Analysts Speculate

Bishop Lehman feels vindicated by selection

    VATICAN, Jan. 29, 01 (CWNews.com) -- Although Pope John Paul II did not explain his decision to delay announcing the names of 7 cardinals until January 28-- a week later than the 37 others who will become cardinals at the consistory on February 21-- Vatican analysts have suggested several possible reasons for that delay.

    The naming of Archbishop Lubomyr Husar, the Ukrainian-rite Archbishop of Lviv, might have been delayed until the Vatican received formal notification that Archbishop Husar had been elected to that post by the synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. And by the same token, the Holy Father may have delayed the public identification of Lviv's Cardinal Marian Jaworski-- who was elevated to cardinalatial rank "in pectore" at the consistory of 1998-- so that the Latin-rite archbishop would make his public entrance into the College of Cardinals along with his Ukrainian-rite counterpart.

    The most surprising nomination in the new group, that of Bishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Germany, could have been delayed because the Vatican was still engaged in tense discussions with the German bishops' conference (of which Bishop Lehmann is president) on the issue of abortion counseling. Those discussions came to a head last week when Bishop Franz Kamphaus of Limbourg, who has resisted Rome's pressure on the issue, released a joint statement with the Vatican affirming the principle that the Church should be unequivocal in its opposition to abortion. The surprise caused by the nomination of Bishop Lehmann is also balanced to some extent by the nomination of Archbishop Johannes Joachim Degenhardt of Paderborn, who has consistently sided with the Vatican during this long dispute.

    Bishop Lehmann reacted to the news by saying, "John Paul II has recognized by work by this nomination."

    The president of the German bishops' conference said that the Pope's decision to elevate him to the College of Cardinals should be seen as a "response" to the "nasty insinuations of previous years." Bishop Lehmann told a Vatican Radio audience that reports of a split between the German bishops and the Vatican on the subject of abortion counseling were inaccurate.

    As the head of the German episcopal conference, Bishop Lehmann has been the focus of discussions over whether the bishops should continue to subsidize counseling centers in which women can receive a certificate that enables them to obtain a legal abortion. The German bishops continued to support those centers for months in spite of the Pope's directive that the Church should not be involved in providing such certificates. After months of wrangling, the Church-sponsored agencies have ceased to provide certificates in all but one German diocese. The head of that diocese, Bishop Franz Kamphaus of Limbourg, issued a statement last week accepting in principle the Vatican's contention that the Church must be unequivocal in condemning abortion.

    Bishop Lehmann was also a lightning-rod for controversy when the German episcopal conference caused disquiet in Rome with suggestions that Catholics who are divorced and remarried should be able to receive Holy Communion.

    Finally, the Mainz bishop caused a flurry of media interest when he suggested that Pope John Paul II could resign because of declining health. Bishop Lehmann later said his remarks were taken out of context.

    Speaking to the Vatican Radio audience on January 29, the German bishop said that his nomination to the College of Cardinals was a "very clear sign" of the Pope's confidence in him. "I consider it an encouragement to continue the work I have been doing," he said.

    The delay in revealing the identity of Cardinal Janis Pujats-- who was also elevated "in pectore" in 1998-- is perhaps tied to the fact that at the time of the 1998 conclave the Vatican was engaged in negotiations with the Latvian government toward the signing of a new concordat to govern Church-state relations. It is quite conceivable that the Pontiff did not wish to upset those negotiations at a delicate point by naming the Archbishop of Riga to the College of Cardinals.

    However, there have been no theories advanced to explain the Pope's delay in advancing the names of Archbishops Julio Terrazas Sandoval of Santa Cruz, Bolivia; and Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa. Vatican- watchers have fallen back on the assumption that Pope John Paul simply had second thoughts after naming 37 other prelates last Sunday.

    Pope John Paul did not explain why these nominations came a week later than the 37 others he had previously announced.

    All of the new nominees are under the age of 80, and thus eligible to vote in a papal election. The number of cardinal-electors, after the February 21 consistory, will reach the unprecedented figure of 135. The maximum number of electors had been set at 120, but the Pope has the authority to exceed that number at his discretion.

    Except insofar as deaths cut into the membership of the College of Cardinals, the number of cardinal-electors will not drop below 120 until January 2003. Thus there will be no need for another consistory before that time.

    Of the 135 electors, 125 have been named to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II; the remaining 10 by Pope Paul VI.

January 30, 2001
volume 12, no. 30
News from ROME
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