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Pontiff Selects Wide Range of Cardinals

October 22, 2003

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ In a poignant ceremony, an ailing Pope John Paul II installed 30 new cardinals from 22 countries Tuesday, assuring significant worldwide representation in the body that will produce his successor.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who has transformed the College of Cardinals over the years into a more international group, named a particularly diverse collection this time, underlining the possibility of a Third World pope. Two countries _ Sudan and Ghana _ gained their first-ever cardinals.

They all knelt before him, to receive their red hats, and at one point in the two-hour ceremony he seemed to wipe away a tear.

The Polish-born pope, whose 1978 election broke 455 years of Italian domination of the papacy, touched on the issue of diversity, certainly a legacy of his long pontificate.

``Enriched by new members, the College of Cardinals, reflecting ever more the multiplicity of the races and cultures that characterize the Christian people, gives new evidence to the unity of every part of Christ’s flock,″ he said in a speech read by an aide.

The crowd at Tuesday’s ceremony reflected their different backgrounds, with a Ghana contingent draping African cloth over police barricades in St. Peter’s Square, a group of Venetian gondoliers in their striped shirts and caps cheering on their new cardinal and a handful of Scottish bagpipers in their kilts on hand for Scotland’s third cardinal since the Protestant Reformation.

John Paul looked extremely frail during the ceremony on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, much as he has during nearly weeklong festivities marking the 25th anniversary of his papacy.

Since it might be John Paul’s last consistory, the current roster of cardinals is considered to be the list of possible popes. For centuries, cardinals have chosen from among themselves for the top job in the Roman Catholic Church and the chance of a non-cardinal being elected is considered remote.

``We don’t know whether that will be in one month or five years,″ said Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien of the next conclave. ``But that’s really the priority for cardinals.″

John Paul himself didn’t read out the names of the new cardinals or actually place their scarlet hats on their heads.

And for the second time in a major Vatican ceremony, he didn’t pronounce a word of his speech. In the few prayers he did deliver, the pontiff slurred his words, symptoms of the Parkinson’s disease which has made it difficult for him to speak.

Tuesday’s ceremony brought to 194 the active members of the College of Cardinals, although only 135 of them are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave.

Of those, John Paul has named all but five.

The new cardinals reflect the wide reach of the Catholic Church. They include prelates from Vietnam and Australia, Guatemala and Mexico, Japan and Nigeria. Most follow John Paul’s conservative bent.

The only American in the group is Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and a former Vatican official.

Asked if he would be thinking of Americans if he participates in a conclave, he suggested he wouldn’t be voting on the basis of nationality.

``In the final analysis, you have to judge according to your conscience,″ he said.

With a record number of cardinals, the papal field is considered wide open. No one is being touted as a favorite.

Ghana is getting its first cardinal with Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the archbishop of Cape Coast, and Sudan its first with Gabriel Zubeir Wako, archbishop of Khartoum. The new Indian cardinal, Ranchi Archbishop Telesphore Placidus Toppo, is the first tribal cardinal.

Jane Nwankwo of Lagos, Nigeria, dressed in a purple head scarf and green dress, said she cried during the ceremony when Lagos’ archbishop Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie was elevated.

``I thought I was in heaven. I think this is the highest place I will be,″ she said, adding that having a new cardinal will help Nigeria make a better name for itself internationally.

Under John Paul the college has gotten more international and less Italian, although Europe as a whole still is the largest bloc, followed by Latin America.

John Paul named the new group on Sept. 28, acting months before he was expected to amid increasing concerns about the toll his Parkinson’s disease was taking on him.

He also announced a 31st cardinal whose name was kept secret, or ``in pectore.″ That’s a Vatican formula often used when the pope wants to name a cardinal in a country where the church is oppressed.

The Vatican said John Paul was actually creating 31 cardinals Tuesday, even though only 30 were installed in their new posts. Under church law, an unnamed cardinal enjoys none of the rights or duties of a cardinal until his name is published. If he is under age 80, he wouldn’t be able to vote in a conclave unless John Paul names him before he dies.

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