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Spotlight Report

They hope prelate is on pope's list

Talk of cardinals includes O'Malley

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 9/28/2003

Pope John Paul II, who is expected to announce as soon as today a list of bishops he will elevate to the rank of cardinal next month, partially allayed fears about his health yesterday by meeting with the Philippines president and presiding over a memorial Mass.

The pope appeared in relatively good form as he received President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines. The pope stood up to greet her with the help of aides and shook her hand before sitting back in his chair to speak to his guests in English.

Later in the evening, the 83-year-old Polish pope presided over a memorial Mass to commemorate his two Italian predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul I, who died 25 years ago.

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston is widely thought to be the American bishop most likely to be on the list of new cardinals.

Archbishop Justin F. Rigali of St. Louis, who is to be installed as the new archbishop of Philadelphia Oct. 7, is another possibility. There is also a chance that the pope will not elevate an American bishop at this time in order to preserve the geographic diversity of the College of Cardinals.

O'Malley was at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston yesterday for a ceremony investing men and women candidates into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.

Knights and ladies from the Northeastern Lieutenancy of the Holy Sepulcher, wearing celebratory robes, packed the 215-year-old cathedral with family and friends, with many expressing optimism at the rumors that O'Malley will be among the bishops Pope John Paul II might name to the College of Cardinals in October.

''I think it would be the best thing to happen to Boston,'' said Mary Puma of Belmont, a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher. ''We should have a cardinal. It was the saddest day of my life when Cardinal Bernard Law resigned.''

For parishioners Marie and Art Berarducci of Needham, it wouldn't be too soon. ''He's made progress with the clergy sex abuse settlement,'' Marie said. ''I think he would be a great cardinal. He's a warm, down-to-earth, caring person.''

Generally speaking, O'Malley would be unlikely to become a cardinal, because he was installed as archbishop only on July 30 and because Boston's former archbishop, Bernard F. Law, remains an active cardinal despite having resigned as head of the Boston Archdiocese.

But the sex abuse scandal has increased the chance of O'Malley's elevation, according to John L. Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. Vatican officials may want to demonstrate encouragement from the pope for O'Malley's effort to end the crisis in Boston, Allen said.

''There was a strong push to get O'Malley on the list as a show of support and solidarity for the Catholics of Boston,'' Allen said. O'Malley's spokesman, the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, said he does not expect the archbishop to be named cardinal today.

''We've been given no new information, and the archbishop does not expect to be named a cardinal'' today, Coyne said.

The pope has customarily held consistories, the events at which bishops are elevated to cardinal, in February and June. But Italian news reports suggest that the ailing pope wants to bring the College of Cardinals, which now has 109 members under age 80, up to or above 120. The main task of the College of Cardinals is to elect the next pope.

Only cardinals under 80 are allowed to vote at conclaves to elect the next pope. Church rules say that the college of cardinals is supposed to be limited to 120 members of voting age, but John Paul II has previously exceeded that limit.

All but five of the current cardinals were named by John Paul II.

In addition to voting for the next pope, cardinals serve on Vatican committees, called congregations, that administer the global church.

And, Allen said, cardinals have greater influence in the church, which could be of assistance to O'Malley, particularly as he seeks Vatican permission to sell off church property or close parishes.

''A cardinal's phone calls get answered ahead of an archbishop's,'' Allen said. ''There is a political weight to it that goes beyond just symbolism.''

Material from Reuters was used in this report.


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