22 cardinals join club to elect pope's successor
By NICOLE WINFIELD
February 18, 2012
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday brought 22 new Catholic churchmen into the elite club of cardinals who will elect his successor, in a greatly simplified ceremony that took account of evidence the 84-year-old pontiff is slowing down.
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.
Preparations for the ceremony have been 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 Saturday, however, amid the pomp of the consistory that brought to 125 the number of cardinals under age 80 who are thus 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 three-pointed red hat, or 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 dishonor 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 center 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 symbolizes the blood that cardinals must be willing to shed to remain faithful to the church.