- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2003

VATICAN CITY — Amid concerns about his frail health, Pope John Paul II appointed 31 cardinals yesterday, acting months earlier than expected and strengthening his influence on the group that will chose his successor.

The new “princes” of the church include senior Vatican officials and diocesan leaders from 20 countries. They will receive their red hats at a ceremony known as a consistory on Oct. 21 — a date chosen to coincide with the weeklong celebrations marking John Paul’s 25th anniversary as pope.

Several names mentioned in the Italian media as possible new cardinals were not on the pope’s list ? including Archbishop Sean O’Malley, who took over the Boston Archdiocese in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal that rocked the American church.

Archbishop O’Malley didn’t refer to the omission in a statement yesterday, and instead congratulated the only American on the list, Justin Rigali, the archbishop-elect of Philadelphia.

The 68-year-old Archbishop Rigali is a Los Angeles native who was previously archbishop of St. Louis. He is a conservative and has championed two of the pope’s favorite causes — publicly condemning abortion and the death penalty.

“It’s a great honor to be part of the pope’s council,” Archbishop Rigali said as he entered the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where he was attending Mass.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet moment for us. He’s been our spiritual father for nine and a half years,” said the St. Louis Archdiocese’s vicar general, Monsignor Richard Stika, shortly after speaking with Archbishop Rigali yesterday.

One of the 31 on the list was unidentified, perhaps because he works in a country where the church is oppressed.

Much of Italy, including Vatican City, was without power yesterday because of a blackout, but the Vatican managed to amplify the ailing 83-year-old pope’s remarks with a backup generator provided at the last moment by RAI state television.

The College of Cardinals is already made up mainly of like-minded prelates reflecting John Paul’s choices. The new cardinals are expected to further cement the pope’s influence on the choice of his successor and brings to at least 135 the number of cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave.

The new cardinals include archbishops from Nigeria, France, Sudan, Spain, Scotland, Brazil, Ghana, India, Australia, Croatia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Hungary, Canada and Italy as well as Archbishop Rigali.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was the absence from the list of Archbishop O’Malley, who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law as in Boston after Cardinal Law resigned in December amid public outcry over the sex scandal.

While there was no explanation for Archbishop O’Malley’s absence, one possible reason was that the pope was reluctant to name a cardinal from Boston while Cardinal Law is still of voting age and serving on several Vatican commissions.

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