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Pope John Paul II Names 44 New Cardinals

Aired February 20, 2001 - 4:43 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Pope John Paul II, longest serving pope of the 20th century, will do something this week that many believe will secure his legacy for generations to come.

CNN's Jim Bittermann with more on the story from Rome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In religious tailor shops across Rome, clerical outfitters have been working long into the night. The biggest consistory in history is in the making, and all those new cardinals mean a flood of orders for new scarlet robes.

Never before have so many churchmen, 44 in all, been invited to join the College of Cardinals at the same time. The number of voting numbers of college will increase by more than a third: Something that will have enormous impact when the time comes for the college's most important task, selecting the next pope.

Among the newcomers are those who have been John Paul II's faithful servants, like Roberto Tucci, the long-suffering organizer of papal trips. And then there are those who have made great personal sacrifices for their religion, such as Nguyen Van Thuan, who spent 13 years in prison after the communists took control of South Vietnam.

But most of the new appointments are to fill vacancies. In the U.S., for instance, New York's Archbishop Edward Egan will be made a cardinal, as will Washington's Theodore McCarrick. And the new flock of cardinals will have certain influence on the direction of the church.

JOHN ALLEN JR., NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER: What has happened is that the church made option for debate in the next conflict and I think, on balance, that's arguable a very healthy thing.

BITTERMANN: One in five of the senior churchmen, for instance, now come from Latin America, home to nearly one-half the world's one billion Catholics. Some, such as the new cardinal from Honduras, foresee Latin America taking a much stronger role in the leadership of the church.

OSCAR RODRIGUEA MARADIAGA, ARCHBISHOP OF TEGUCIGALPA: We have good priests, good bishops, good cardinals that could be one day a pope from Latin America.

BITTERMANN: But if John Paul II has prepared the church for new geographic directions with the consistory, he has also, to the surprise of Vatican observers, bolstered the ranks of progressives in the church, most notably with the elevation of Karl Lehmann from Mainz, Germany.

(on camera): Some here had called Lehmann the most celebrated non-cardinal of the Catholic Church because while he is a renowned theologian, he repeatedly deviated from the Vatican line on a whole range of issues, from women in the priesthood to abortion counseling.

(voice-over): Lehmann's appointment was yet another surprise from John Paul II, who has now named more cardinals and saints than any pope in history.

Jim Bitterman, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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