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Pope Names 31 Cardinals, Only 1 From U.S.

September 29, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Archbishop Justin Rigali, known for his quiet leadership and worldwide experience that ranged from heading the Vatican’s diplomatic school to working in Madagascar, was named a cardinal on Sunday, the only American in a group of 31 new cardinals named by Pope John Paul II.

Rigali, 68, has led the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 1994 and is to be installed as archbishop of Philadelphia next month. Of the American archbishops who are also cardinals, he has the richest experience on the Vatican staff.

``It’s a great honor to be part of the pope’s council,″ Rigali said as he entered the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where he was attending a Mass and investiture ceremony for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

``It’s kind of a bittersweet moment for us. He’s been our spiritual father for nine and a half years,″ St. Louis Archdiocese Vicar General Monsignor Richard Stika said Sunday shortly after speaking with Rigali.

He said Rigali found out within the past few days that he was likely to be named cardinal and confirmed it late Saturday. He described Rigali’s reaction as ``humble excitement.″

Rigali was appointed in July to succeed Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Philadelphia’s archbishop for 15 years, and will be installed in an Oct. 7 ceremony. Bevilacqua, who turned 80 in June, is retiring as leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s 1.5 million Catholics.

Like Bevilacqua, Rigali is a conservative with close Vatican ties.

A friend of Pope John Paul II, he held various Vatican positions over three decades before being sent to St. Louis in 1994.

Two of those positions would be held only by a highly trusted insider: president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the school for Vatican diplomats that is considered the Vatican’s West Point, and secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, which made him the No. 2 man in the office that recommends bishops to the pope for appointment worldwide.

Rigali ``is very much in the mentality of the current pontificate,″ said Kenneth Parker, an associate professor of historical theology at Saint Louis University who is active with an advocacy group for survivors of clergy abuse. ``Rigali is very much a part of John Paul II’s vision of church, a conservative man, who is very reluctant to say anything that isn’t vetted and endorsed by the pope.″

Rigali, a Los Angeles native, studied at four Los Angeles Archdiocesan seminaries. He left for Rome about six months after his ordination as a priest in 1961.

In 1966, he was named to the Apostolic Nunciature in Madagascar. He was there until 1970, when he was appointed director of English-language section of the Secretariat of State in Rome. As an English-language translator, he traveled often with the pope.

He remains in touch with key Vatican leaders and frequently travels to Rome.

Rigali also has critics, particularly among advocates for victims of clerical sex abuse. A leading activist, David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, has said Rigali has been among the least compassionate American bishops in dealing with the clerical sex abuse crisis.

``To see someone with Rigali’s track record rise even higher in the hierarchy feels like rubbing salt into the wounds of people who are already deeply wounded,″ Clohessy said Sunday. ``It would be less upsetting if we had at least seen growth on Rigali’s part over the years, but he has been pretty consistently hostile to victims.″

Rigali addressed the abuse victims in a recent interview, saying some people ``have been tremendously shaken up and we have to work with those people. Other people are working together to try to get over this, to help victims, to help those who have suffered.″

Of his critics, Rigali said Sunday, ``They’re free to have their opinions, and I’m free to have mine. ... The important thing is that people of goodwill are intent on making sure children are protected.″

Though rarely speaking in public, Rigali has championed two of the pope’s favorite causes, publicly condemning abortion and the death penalty.

``Archbishop Rigali’s appointment is a reflection of the Holy Father’s confidence in him as a loyal bishop who continues to serve the Church faithfully,″ Bevilacqua said Sunday.

The College of Cardinals already largely consists of like-minded conservatives, reflecting John Paul’s choices during his 25-year papacy, and a new group will further strengthen his influence on the choice of the next pope.

Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley, who was considered a prospect for cardinal, congratulated Rigali. O’Malley’s chances of being named Sunday were diminished by the presence of another cardinal in the same city, former Archbishop Bernard Law.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said he was disappointed that O’Malley had not been named but noted, ``There’s only so many red hats to pass out.″

Rigali ``is a very gifted man of vast experience,″ O’Malley said. ``I express my congratulations to him and the other newly named cardinals from around the world.″

In St. Louis, parishioners attending Mass at St. Pius V Catholic Church on Sunday praised Rigali’s work.

``It’s about time for him,″ said Marsha Cronin, 60. Added Janet Jakubowski, 56, ``He’s been a good archbishop.″


Associated Press writers Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., and religion writer Richard N. Ostling contributed to this report.

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