March 25, 2006

Pope, new cardinals, remember John Paul II

By Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict and 15 new cardinals
he elevated to the highest ranks of the Roman Catholic Church
paid tribute on Saturday to the late Pope John Paul, who died
nearly a year ago, recalling his public suffering.

Benedict, dressed in resplendent gold vestments, led the
new "princes of the Church" in a solemn mass attended by tens
of thousands of people assembled in St Peter's Square.

The new cardinals from around the world, joining the
exclusive group that advises the Pope and will one day elect
his successor, received rings of office from the Pope a day
after they were elevated to the rank at another ceremony.

In his homily, the German-born Pope, 78, urged them to see
the ring as a sign of their commitment to spreading the message
of Jesus and their closeness to him as members of the "senate"
of the successor of St Peter.

Benedict recalled that a year ago this week, John Paul was
already in the last days of his life and that the world had
witnessed his suffering as he struggled but failed to speak to
crowds before he died on April 2.

"It is just one year since his pontificate entered its
final phase, full of suffering and yet triumphant ...," he
said, speaking from the flower-bedecked steps of St Peter's

He spoke of Pope John Paul's deep devotion to the Madonna
and recalled the late pope believed the Mother of God had saved
his life in an assassination attempt in St Peter's Square on
May 13, 1981, when he was shot by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali


As the Pope mentioned his predecessor, the crowd applauded.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, 66, who was at John Paul's side
during 26 years as his faithful private secretary, closed his
eyes tightly.

For the second straight day, Dziwisz -- one of the most
familiar faces in Rome and the Vatican and now the archbishop
of Krakow, Poland -- received the loudest and most prolonged
applause as he approached the Pope to receive his ring.

Those who said their first mass as cardinals with Benedict
on Saturday also included Archbishop Sean O'Malley, who took
over in Boston in 2003 to clean up after a clerical sexual
abuse scandal forced Cardinal Bernard Law to resign.

Another was Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the outspoken Hong Kong
bishop who has criticized the lack of religious freedom in
China. He expressed the hope on Friday that his elevation to
cardinal will help smooth strained ties between the Vatican and
the communist government in Beijing.

One key appointee was William Levada, 69, the former
archbishop of San Francisco appointed by Benedict last May to
replace him as head of the Vatican's influential Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith. Other new cardinals came from
Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The Pope rose from his throne to embrace Cardinal Peter
Poreku Dery, an 87-year-old prelate from Ghana who is confined
to a wheelchair.

Twelve of the new cardinals are under 80 and thus eligible
to enter a conclave to choose a pope. The Church now has a
total of 193 cardinals, 120 of them under 80 and able to vote
for the next pope.