- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI convened the College of Cardinals for the first time since his election last year, asking them yesterday for advice on pressing issues facing the Catholic Church, including relations with Islam.

The cardinals met on the eve of a ceremony to formally elevate 15 new “princes” of the church — additions the pope has said reflected Catholicism’s global reach.

Benedict invited the cardinals to offer their thoughts on issues facing the church, including the split with the ultraconservative group Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The cardinals also were asked what to do with bishops and cardinals who are asked to retire at age 75 but are still able to work.

After the session, Cardinal George Pell of Australia said he hoped the meeting would “become something of a tradition,” noting in particular the discussions on Islam.

“I think the general direction was we have to be clearheaded, charitable and know what we’re about and obviously support all those moderate forces everywhere throughout the world who are happy to talk and to try to work for the common good,” he said.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said the Vatican was studying the “best formula” for reconciling with the Lefebvre movement.

Archbishop Lefebvre founded the Switzerland-based Society of St. Pius X in 1969, opposing many of the liberalizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, including the use of local languages in the Mass instead of Latin.

The Vatican excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 after he consecrated four bishops without Rome’s consent. The four bishops were excommunicated as well.

In August, Benedict met with the current head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who is one of the excommunicated bishops. Both sides said afterward they had agreed to take steps to resolve their differences.

Bishop Fellay has said he thinks Rome will grant the society a special status within the church, known as an apostolic administration, where the society and local bishops would have “parallel authority” over Archbishop Lefebvre’s followers.

Cardinal Hoyos, who heads the Vatican commission created after the 1988 excommunication to try to negotiate with the society, addressed the meeting yesterday, and about 20 other cardinals also spoke, the Vatican said.

During the consistory, or elevation ceremony, today, each new cardinal will take an oath and receive his “biretta,” the red hat that symbolizes the dignity of the office as well as his willingness to give his life to promote Christianity.

Among those being promoted are Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of China; Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the longtime private secretary of Pope John Paul II; and Archbishop William Levada, who took over Benedict’s old job as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new cardinals will receive their rings, which symbolize their links to the pope, during a Mass tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square.

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