On 21 February 2001, in St Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II created 44 new cardinals who will ensure that his program continues into the 21st century. Only one, the former Bishop Lehmann from Germany, is clearly identified with the 'liberal' wing of the Church.
The week's delay in announcing an additional seven to the original 37 names presented on 21 January had hinged on the appointment of the newly elected Archbishop of the Ukrainian Rite Catholics of Lviv. The Pope could not name Archbishop Lubomyr Husar as a new cardinal, because the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics had not yet named him a bishop. In the case of the Oriental Churches, bishops are named by the synod, and the Pope simply gives his consent. There may also have been some pressure from countries due for a cardinal that had been left out of the first list, notably South Africa and Bolivia.
Whatever the reasons, John Paul II added four names to the two he had previously selected "in pectore" [kept to himself], along with that of Archbishop Husar.
With the addition of 44 new members, the College of Cardinals will reach a record total of 185. Of these, 135 will be elector cardinals - those younger than 80 eligible to vote for a new pope in a conclave. During his pontificate, the Holy Father has now named all but ten of the cardinal electors, with the likelihood of a successor closely following his policies correspondingly increased.
The continent with the most cardinals in a future conclave continues to be Europe, with 65 cardinals (48 percent); then come the Americas, with 11 US cardinals, two Canadians and 27 Latin Americans. Both Asia and Africa will have 13 elector cardinals, while Oceania will have four. However, the diminishing proportion of Italians and Europeans in the college increases the likelihood of another non-Italian - even a non- European - pope. As John Paul II put it, his appointees "well reflect the Church's universality and multiplicity of ministries."
Particularly enhanced was the number of cardinals from Latin America. Of the Church's 25 youngest cardinals, eight are now from that continent - no doubt acknowledging the fact it is home to 40 percent of the world's Catholics.
The word "cardinal" itself comes from the Latin word cardo for a hinge. It is an early reference to the important role of the cardinals. Originally these advisors to the Pope were chosen from the clergy of Rome, and from surrounding dioceses. In 1150, Pope Eugenius III constituted the cardinals as a college, but already since 1059 they had been the exclusive electors of the pope and since 1378, the popes have been solely from members of the college.
Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the number of cardinals rarely exceeded 30, but in 1586, Pope Sixtus V set a limit of 70, while Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) raised the limit to 120 - now exceeded by Pope John Paul II. Paul VI also prohibited those over 80 from voting in a conclave.
The present elector 135 cardinals fall into two main categories - those residing in Rome and those residing in their dioceses. Of the first group, about twenty work at the Vatican in charge of congregations for Clergy, Bishops, Liturgy and Sacraments, Doctrine of the Faith, etc.
Most of the expected curial offices received red hats: Jean-Baptiste Re at the Bishops' Congregation, Francis-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan at Justice and Peace, Crescenzio Sepe, the Secretary of the Jubilee, Walter Kasper, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity - widely expected to head the Council upon the retirement of the Rome-based Australian, Edward Cassidy, now 76 - and others.
In Ireland, the historic primatial see of Armagh, Northern Ireland, was passed over in favour of the much more populous Dublin, where Archbishop Desmond Connell, 74, will become a cardinal. A number of the appointees were archbishops who had recently succeeded to sees traditionally governed by cardinals, e.g., Edward Egan of New York, Theodore McCarrick of Washington DC and Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster.
An unexpected US name was that of the widely respected theologian, 82-year-old Fr Avery Dulles SJ (see page 12).
The Latin American residential archbishops who were created cardinals come from eight different countries, representing archdioceses with average Catholic populations of 3.5 million. With the elevation of the relatively young Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne - the 57-year-old Archbishop of Lima, Peru - Opus Dei has its first cardinal. As a young man he played in his country's national basketball team.
Despite having already for a second time exceeded the numerical limit set by Paul VI and confirmed by himself in the Apostolic Constitution Universi dominici gregis, John Paul II left open the possibility of naming even more cardinals in the not-too-distant future. Some Vatican watchers suggest this could occur as early as this coming December.
When reading out the 37 names on 21 January, the Holy Father noted that "many others merited the honour" and he hoped to have the opportunity "to testify in this manner to my esteem and affection to those people and the countries they represent."
In this regard, some in the media had been earlier suggesting a red hat might come to Melbourne, given the prominence of Archbishop George Pell.
However, with a world average of approximately 7.5 million Catholics per voting cardinal (including curial ones), Australia's Catholic population of about five million is already well covered by the present two - Cardinals Cassidy and Clancy. However, with their eventual retirements, the situation could well change - although the traditional allocation of a red hat to Sydney remains a factor in the equation.