Cardinals' ascension clouded by intrigue

Pope Benedict XVI elevated 22 men to the rank of cardinal in a ceremony at the Vatican Saturday.

But the joyous occasion was overshadowed by difficult days for the church.

The ceremony is the pope's way of putting his stamp on the church's future.

With considerable understatement given the pomp and color, it's known as an ordinary public consistory.

But the circumstances surrounding this one are anything but ordinary.

Pope elevates 22 archbishops to cardinal

With the Pontiff nearing his 85th birthday, the creation of 22 new "princes of the church" takes on a greater significance than mere ceremony.

The pope is showing signs of slowing down, and the Vatican is reeling from what's been dubbed "Vatileaks" -- scandals over leaked documents, financial mismanagement and political infighting.

The primary job of the 125 cardinals under the age of 80 is to choose a new pope, and the Italian media have been gleefully reporting jockeying for position among cardinals and their supporters.

The most prominent American to receive his "red hat" was Timothy Dolan of New York.

A few days ago, the then-Archbishop Dolan said part of his new job as cardinal would be to convince the Vatican that New York was not, as he put it, "some neo-Sodom and Gomorrah" -- a reference to the two cities the Old Testament says were destroyed by God because their people were wicked and sinful.

The other American to join the elite men's club is Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore.

The U.S. church needs all the prominence and influence it can get. Settlements and payments of clerical sex abuse cases have cost the church more the $3 billion and forced eight diocese to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And as if that weren't enough, the Italian government has decided to end the church's exemption from local property taxes, which could cost the Vatican nearly $1 billion a year.

The pope told the new cardinals that, while part of their job was to help him in what he called "the delicate task" of guiding the church, they must first and foremost be men of religion.

Given what's been happening in the Vatican of late...they may be hard-pressed to separate the two.

To see Allen Pizzey's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Allen Pizzey

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