- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI named 15 new cardinals yesterday, including a prelate from Boston and an outspoken critic of China, adding his first installment to the elite group of churchmen who will elect his successor.

Benedict read aloud the names during his weekly general audience and said they would be elevated during a March 24 ceremony at the Vatican.

Those chosen to receive the “red hats” that the so-called princes of the church wear include the archbishops of Caracas, Venezuela; Seoul; Bordeaux, France; Toledo, Spain; and Manila.

Two Americans also were named — Benedict’s successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop William Levada, and Boston Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley. Both men have been involved in the response to the clergy sex-abuse scandal in the United States.

Twelve of the 15 men are younger than 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to select Benedict’s successor.

One of the key new cardinals is Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen, who has been outspoken in the need for religious rights for Roman Catholics in China. Benedict has been reaching out to China and his elevation of Bishop Zen indicated that religious freedom is important to the pontiff.

China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Chinese Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Still, millions of Chinese meet illegally in underground churches loyal to Rome.

Bishop Zen, who was earlier banned from mainland China, is a vocal supporter of China’s underground Catholics.

“He didn’t name a lot of cardinals this time. A lot of dioceses that typically get appointments didn’t. This shows his priority for China,” Bishop Zen said.

Benedict also tapped his predecessor John Paul Il’s longtime private secretary, Krakow Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, for a red hat.

Archbishop O’Malley, brought in by John Paul to clean up the archdiocese after the sex-abuse scandal that forced the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, said he was “deeply humbled and honored” to be chosen.

“Together, we have faced many challenges and I look forward to continuing our work together toward strengthening our church,” Archbishop O’Malley said.

Archbishop Levada, who left a post in San Francisco last year to succeed Benedict in the office overseeing Catholic doctrine, is responsible for reviewing abuse accusations against priests worldwide.

The new cardinals come from 11 different countries from North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

The pontiff said the new cardinals “reflect the universality of the church: In fact, they come from various parts of the world and carry out different tasks in the service of the people of God.”

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