The New Cardinals

It was widely reported that this was Pope John Paul II's “last chance” to influence the election of his successor. For the last 10 years every time the Pope has announced new cardinals it has been reported that way. This time, though, the Sept. 28 announcement that 31 new cardinals would be made at an Oct. 21 consistory did have a certain valedictory feel. What is the significance of the names on the list of 31? We asked our former Rome correspondent Father Raymond J. de Souza for an overview.

Curia cardinals. There are some Vatican dicasteries (departments of the Curia) that are always headed by a cardinal, and the new occupants of those positions are on the list, as is customary.

But John Paul also chose several long-serving department heads whom he had previously passed over: Archbishop Julian Herranz (canon law), Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan (health care) and Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao (migrants).

Most notable among the Vatican appointments was that of Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, popularly known as the Holy See's foreign minister. Vatican rules normally prohibit one cardinal from reporting to another, and so Tauran, who reports to Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, would normally not be eligible.

Clearly the Holy Father did not want to wait before honoring him — or the Pope's 82-year-old personal theologian, Father Georges Cottier.

The new Vatican cardinals seemed to indicate just what the media reports emphasized, namely that John Paul did not want to wait until next time to honor some of his long-serving collaborators.

Archdiocesan cardinals. The residential archbishops elevated to the College of Cardinals were, for the most part, heads of archdioceses normally led by a cardinal. Archbishop Justin Rigali, newly appointed to Philadelphia and a longtime papal friend, would fit that category, as would the new cardinals from Venice, Marseille, Florence, Genoa, Seville, Rio de Janeiro, Guatemala and Lyon.

Notable on the list by his absence was Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston. His omission highlights a delicate problem left over from Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation as archbishop of Boston but not from the College of Cardinals. Had John Paul appointed O'Malley, Boston would have ended up with two voting-age cardinals — a rather odd outcome after the scandals. How that issue will be resolved will have to wait for another time.

The Church suffering. The creation of cardinals in Lagos (Nigeria), Khartoum (Sudan) and Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) was a sign that the martyr's red of the cardinal robes is not merely symbolic. In places where the Church is persecuted, the appointment of a cardinal is a consoling sign of unity with the Church universal.

Breaking the mold? Whenever the Pope announces new cardinals, it is said that he is choosing men in “his own mold” — which in the secular press simply means that they are faithful to orthodox Catholic teaching. But in fact there are not so many men around who are “in the mold” of Pope John Paul II. Sydney Archbishop George Pell and Quebec Archbishop Marc Ouellet are two.

Archbishop Pell, who heads up an important international commission on English-language translations of the liturgy, will likely inherit the mantle of the late Cardinal John O'Connor for the English-speaking world. He speaks with candor and clarity, and to the extent that Catholicism in the English-speaking world needs an injection of muscular confidence, Archbishop Pell — “the Thunder from Down Under” — is the man.

Archbishop Ouellet is a true scholar — less than three years ago he was a professor working at the John Paul II Institute in Rome. Scholar-bishops are critically necessary to articulate the ancient truths of the faith in a (frequently hostile) secular environment.

A valedictory? One never knows, especially with this Pope. But old debts of gratitude were paid, solicitude for the suffering Churches was shown, and at least two new superstars were identified. And on top of everything, it surprised many. Typical John Paul II.