VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II elevated 20 men to the College of Cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican on Saturday, February 21. There are now 165 living cardinals, of whom 122-- being under the age of 80-- are now eligible to vote in a papal conclave. Nearly 87 percent of these cardinals have been appointed by Pope John Paul II.

      Three of the new cardinals were unable to attend the Saturday ceremony. Cardinal Alberto Bovone, who is seriously ill, was confined to Gemelli Hospital for an operation; he received his red hat there. Two other new cardinals were named "in pectore"-- which means that their identity has not been disclosed. Vatican-watchers have speculated that these unnamed cardinals are probably from countries such as China, Vietnam, Algeria, or Sudan-- where the public disclosure of the honor might create new problems for them.

      But only the Pope knows the names of these new cardinals with certainty. At times a Pontiff may reveal the identity of a cardinal whom he has named "in pectore," because of changing circumstances. That was the case with Cardinal Ignatius Gong Pin-Mei, the former Archbishop of Shanghai, who was named "in pectore" in 1979, with the honor made public in 1991. Cardinal Gong is now the eldest member of the College of Cardinals.

      Among the new cardinals-- including 8 bishops serving at the Vatican, and 12 archbishops of major metropolitan sees-- two names stood out. Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 64, a former theology professor and vice president of the Italian bishops' conference, has earned an enviable reputation for his energy and his ability as a mediator in difficult situations; he is the Archbishop of Genoa. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, one of the youngest cardinals at 52, is a Dominican theologian, the head of the committee which produced the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a respected leader who inherited a difficult situation in the Archbishop of Vienna. Even before becoming a cardinal, Archbishop Schoenborn was often listed as "papabile"-- a potential candidate for the papacy.

      This consistory-- the seventh of Pope John Paul's consistory-- did not give rise to any startling new appointments, such as the elevation of Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo and Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana in 1994. Most of the archbishops raised to the cardinalate now head sees which traditionally have commanded the honor.

      The College of Cardinals now includes roughly one-half European members; the remainder are (again roughly) 20 percent from Latin America, 10 percent from North America, 10 percent from Africa, 11 percent from Asia, and 3 percent from Oceana.

      A consistory is a liturgical ceremony, which includes a Liturgy of the Word, followed by a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity on the part of the new cardinals. Each new cardinal then comes forward, kneeling before the Pope to accept the red cap and the assignment of a titular church in the Diocese of Rome. (The cardinals, as the clergy of the Rome diocese, are thus empowered to elect the Bishop of Rome.) In a short homily for the occasion, Pope John Paul II spoke of the "grave responsibility" of a cardinal as an adviser to the Pope and an elector, and said that the diversity of the College of Cardinals gives the Church the benefit of a "symphony" of opinions.

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February 24, 1998 volume 9, no. 39         DAILY CATHOLIC