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Pope appoints 22 new Cardinals - including 18 who will pick his successor

Pope Benedict XVI appoints 22 new Cardinals, all but four of them under the age of 80, at a ceremony at the Vatican.

Newly-elected Cardinal Karl Becker, of Germany, receives his biretta hat from Pope Benedict XVI.
Newly-elected Cardinal Karl Becker, of Germany, receives his biretta hat from Pope Benedict XVI.
Image: Andrew Medichini/AP

POPE BENEDICT XVI has formally appointed 22 new Cardinals, further expanding the group which will ultimately get to choose his successor as pontiff.

Benedict presided over a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica to formally create the 22 cardinals, who include the archbishops of New York, Prague, Hong Kong and Toronto as well as the heads of several Vatican offices.

The ceremony was greatly simplified compared to previous ones, taking account of evidence that the 84-year-old Pope is slowing down.

Preparations for the ceremony were clouded by embarrassing leaks of internal documents alleging financial mismanagement in Vatican affairs, and reports in the Italian media of political jockeying among church officials who, sensing an increasingly weak pontiff, are already preparing for a conclave.

None of that was on display this morning, however, amid the pomp of the consistory that brings to 125 the number of cardinals under 80 who are eligible to vote in a papal election.

That said, each of the new cardinals did make a solemn pledge to keep church secrets upon accepting their new title, ring and biretta from the pope.

Reciting the cardinals’ traditional oath of loyalty, each one pledged to remain faithful to the church and to “not to make known to anyone matters entrusted to me in confidence, the disclosure of which could bring damage or dishonour to Holy Church.”

Benedict was wheeled into St. Peter’s Basilica aboard the moving platform he has been using for several months to spare him the long walk down the centre aisle.

Benedict, who turns 85 in April, spoke in a strong voice as he told the cardinals they will be called upon to advise him on the problems facing the church.

In remarks at the start of the service, Benedict recalled that the red color of the three-pointed hat, or biretta, and the scarlet cassock that cardinals wear symbolises the blood that cardinals must be willing to shed to remain faithful to the church.

“The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters even unto shedding their blood, if necessary,” Benedict said.

Ireland was represented at the ceremony by its new non-resident ambassador to the Holy See, David Cooney.

Frailty

Benedict has been slowing down recently. His upcoming trip to Mexico and Cuba, for example, is very light on public appearances, with no political speeches or meetings with civil society planned as has been the norm to date.

Today’s consistory was greatly trimmed back to a slimmer version of the service used in 1969: only one of the cardinals actually read his oath of loyalty aloud, while the others read it silently to themselves simultaneously. A reading was cut out, as was a responsorial psalm.

At the end of his remarks, Benedict said: “And pray for me, that I may continually offer to the people of God the witness of sound doctrine and guide the holy church with a firm and humble hand.”

Of the 22 new cardinals, seven are Italian, adding to the eight voting-age Italian cardinals who were appointed at the last consistory in November 2010. Italy now claims 30 cardinals out of the 125 who are under the age of 80, and can vote in the next papal election.

That boosts Italy’s chances of taking back the papacy for one of its own following decades under a Polish and a German pope, or at least playing the kingmaker role if an Italian papabile, or papal candidate, doesn’t emerge. Only the United States comes close, with 12 cardinals under 80.

Ireland has two members of the group of 125 – Seán Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh, and the former Archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell.

The consistory class of 2012 is heavily European, reinforcing Europe’s dominance of the College of Cardinals, even though two-thirds of the world’s Catholics are in the southern hemisphere.

All but three of the new under-80 cardinals come from the West, along with a Brazilian, an Indian and a Chinese.

Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly

Read: Monti to close Italian Church property tax loophole

More: Vatican closure will be reviewed “in its own good time” – Kenny

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