- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI installed his first group of cardinals yesterday, placing crimson hats on their heads in a ceremony on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica that added 15 more prelates to the elite club that will choose his successor.

Applause rang out from the thousands spread out in the square before the 15 new “princes” of the church.

Benedict opened the ceremony by reading out each of the new cardinals’ names in Latin, drawing more applause after he pronounced each one. The crowd cheered again as the pope gave each a crimson “biretta,” a four-sided hat with three distinct ridges on its upper side.

Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston was among the cardinals, along with William Levada, formerly the archbishop of San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Cardinal Levada took over Benedict’s old job as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal watchdog.

The prelates also included Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of China, and Pope John Paul II’s longtime private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.

Benedict told the prelates he was counting on them to spread the principles of love and charity that he had highlighted in his first encyclical, “God is Love.”

“May the scarlet that you now wear always express Christ’s charity, inspiring you to a passionate love for Christ, for his church and for all humanity,” he said. “I am counting on you, dear brother cardinals, to ensure that the principle of love will spread far and wide, and will give new life to the church at every level of her hierarchy.”

“I am counting on you to see to it that our common endeavor to fix our gaze on Christ’s open heart will hasten and secure the path toward the full unity of Christians,” he said.

Benedict has said that unifying all Christians is a priority of his pontificate.

Security was tight around the square, with uniformed and plainclothes police ringing the area.

The pope seemed visibly moved when he gave Cardinal Dziwisz, John Paul’s closest collaborator, his red hat, whose color symbolizes not only the dignity of the office but the cardinal’s willingness to shed blood to promote Christianity. Sustained applause rang out in the crowd.

The cardinals also were each assigned a “titular” church in Rome to cement their links to the Eternal City. The new cardinals will get their rings during a Mass today in St. Peter’s Square.

Benedict announced Feb. 22 that he was naming the new cardinals, 12 of whom are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave. The additions raised the total number of cardinals to 193, 120 of whom can vote.

While electing a pontiff is the primary task of cardinals, they also are called on to advise the pope on running the Catholic Church.

On the eve of the consistory, Benedict summoned the entire College of Cardinals, including its newest members, to ask their advice on such pressing issues as relations with Islam and reconciling with an ultraconservative group whose bishops were excommunicated two decades ago.

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