New cardinals: Benedict XVI signals his intentions

New cardinals: Benedict XVI signals his intentions

Michael Gilchrist

By the time this issue of AD2000 is available, the 24 March Consistory - the first of Benedict XVI's pontificate - will have taken place, with 15 new cardinals receiving their red hats (see page 4).

As was anticipated in last month's editorial, Benedict is well situated to identify (or select) members of the Vatican Curia who will "sing from the same hymnal" as himself.

This should mean, among other things, that future episcopal appointees will prove more diligent in overseeing the Church's doctrinal and moral teachings, as well as her liturgical requirements, in their dioceses.

Several of the red hats were to be expected, as with the prefects of three key Vatican congregations and the archbishops of dioceses normally led by cardinals.

The choice of the forthright pro-democracy Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop of Hong Kong, was especially significant, signalling that Rome would not be cowed by China's bullying tactics.

With a number of pointed omissions, Benedict has made clear that being the head of a Vatican office does not automatically clear the way to becoming a cardinal.

One of the candidates predicted by the media, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, not only was not designated a cardinal, but was removed from his office and sent to Egypt as a nuncio.

This was not surprising, given the strong disagreement between Archbishop Fitzgerald and Benedict on crucial topics in the dialogue among religions, and in particular between Christianity and Islam - Fitzgerald being a convinced representative of the "spirit of Assisi".

There has been much speculation about the position of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, aged 78, seen by close observers of the Holy See as one of the major obstacles to Benedict XVI's vision for the Church. It seems only a matter of time - given he is past retirement age - before he is replaced by someone more attuned to the Pope's thinking.

Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email -

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