Pope Affirms Onaiyekan, Five Other Non-European Cardinals

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POPE
Benedict XVI has appointed six priests from non-European countries to be
cardinals, at a service in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica.
The
cardinals, the closest aides of the Pope, come from the Philippines, India,
Lebanon, Nigeria, Colombia and the US.
Analysts
say it is unusual for the Pope to select only non-Europeans.
The
Pope told the congregation that the Catholic Church belongs to the whole human
race, not just one group, and was a church for all peoples.

Those
being presented at the consistory, or cardinal-making ceremony, were US
Archbishop James Harvey, 63, prefect of the papal household; Lebanon’s Maronite
Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Indian Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53,
head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi
Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian; Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota,
70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55.

All
six new cardinals are younger than 80 and therefore will likely be eligible to
vote for a new Pope when the current pontiff dies.
Three
are from countries with large Muslim populations –– India, Lebanon and Nigeria.
Cheers
broke out among the supporters of each cardinal-designate as the Pope presented
them with the gold rings at the consistory and the red hats and vestments,
which symbolise their readiness to shed their blood to defend their Christian
faith.
Pope
Benedict has previously faced criticism for appointing mainly Europeans as
cardinals, despite the Church’s estimate that less than a quarter of the
world’s Catholics live in Europe.
In
February, he created 22 new cardinals including 16 Europeans, seven of whom
were Italian.
By
adding six non-Europeans to the number of 114 cardinal electors, the Pope has
slightly shifted the geographical demographic of the body which will ultimately
choose his successor, though Europeans still make up the majority, at 51
percent.
Cardinal-designate
John Onaiyekan is the archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, where Christians and
Muslims each make up about half the population, and dialogue between the two
faiths is increasingly important, says a BBC report in Rome.
The
Pope’s elevation of Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, the head of the Maronite
Church – an ancient Lebanese Christian Church in communion with Rome – is seen
as a sign of Vatican support for religious diversity in Lebanon.
The
Pope has called on Christians to remain in the Middle East despite rising
Islamism, and during a visit to Beirut in September, said Lebanon was a model
for the region.

Before yesterday’s
ceremony, Pope Benedict met Lebanese President Michel Sleiman. A representative
of the Shia militant group Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government,
also attended the ceremony

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