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Pope Appoints 31 New Cardinals

Ailing Pope John Paul II strengthened his influence over the choice of his successor by naming 31 cardinals in an appointment that came months earlier than expected.

The additions will cement the conservative bent of the College of Cardinals since John Paul has now appointed all but five of the cardinals eligible to vote for the next pope.

"In appointing cardinals John Paul II has done what anyone would do if they were pope — he has appointed men who agree with him on the major issues that face the church," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the U.S.-based Jesuit magazine America.

The men will receive their red hats at a ceremony known as a consistory on Oct. 21 — a date chosen to coincide with the weeklong celebrations marking John Paul's 25th anniversary as pope.

Several names mentioned in the Italian media as possible new cardinals weren't on the pope's list — including Archbishop Sean O'Malley, who took over the Boston archdiocese to clean it up from the sex abuse scandal that rocked the American church.

O'Malley didn't refer to the omission in a statement Sunday, instead congratulating the only American on the list: Justin Rigali, the archbishop-elect of Philadelphia.

The 68-year-old Rigali is a Los Angeles native who has been archbishop of St. Louis since 1994. He is a conservative and, like the pope, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and abortion.

"The rumors were out, but the news came very quickly. It's a great honor to be part of the Pope's council," Rigali said as he entered the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where he was attending Mass.

St. Louis Archdiocese Vicar General Monsignor Richard Stika described Rigali's reaction as "humble excitement."

"It's kind of a bittersweet moment for us. He's been our spiritual father for nine and a half years," Stika said.

Before Sunday's announcement, the College of Cardinals had 164 members — 109 of them under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. John Paul appointed all but five of the eligible voters.

As members age, the number of College of Cardinal members fluctuates, but the traditional maximum is 120 voters. John Paul surpassed that number with appointments in 2001 and 1998.

The latest appointments bring to at least 135 the number of cardinals under 80.

Vatican officials had said they didn't expect the appointment of new cardinals before the end of the year; February 2004 had been mentioned as a possible date.

No explanation was given for why the pope acted sooner. Vatican officials said privately that the timing seemed right with the College of Cardinals and heads of national bishops conferences already coming to Rome for the anniversary celebrations.

John Paul, who is 83 and suffers from Parkinson's disease, announced the new cardinals from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square. He read out the list with great difficulty, stopping to catch his breath several times before finishing each man's title.

Much of Italy, including Vatican City, was without power on Sunday because of a blackout, but the Vatican managed to amplify the pope's remarks with a backup generator provided at the last moment by Italy's RAI state television.

One of the 31 on the list was unidentified, perhaps because he works in a country where the church is oppressed.

The new cardinals also include archbishops from Nigeria, France, Sudan, Spain, Scotland, Brazil, Ghana, India, Australia, Croatia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Hungary, Canada, and Italy.

Among the appointments was George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, Australia, who was cleared of sex abuse allegations last year. He has been criticized for saying abortion was worse than sex abuse by priests — a comment he said was taken out of context — and refusing to give communion to gays.

"I think it further shows the church to be representing many elements that I think are not doing the church very much good at the moment," Canberra Bishop Pat Power told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

John Paul also named other top Vatican officials, including the French-born foreign minister Jean-Louis Tauran and prelates from Spain, Mexico, Japan and Italy. The pontiff promoted from bishop to archbishop three of his closest aides: his private secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz of Poland; James Harvey, an American and the chief of the papal household; and the master of papal ceremonies, Piero Marini of Italy.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was the absence on the list of O'Malley, who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law as Boston archbishop after Law resigned in December amid public outcry over the sex scandal. O'Malley has been working to settle lawsuits brought by victims of clerical abuse.

While there was no explanation for O'Malley's absence, one possible reason was that the pope was reluctant to name a cardinal from Boston while Law is still of voting age and serving on several Vatican commissions.