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CNN Today

A Momentous Day for the Catholic Church

Aired February 21, 2001 - 4:40 p.m. ET

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

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: With more on what this ceremony means for the Catholic church, we are joined from New York by Father Thomas Reese, editor of "America" Magazine, a national Catholic weekly publication.

Father Reese, thanks for joining us.

FATHER THOMAS REESE, "AMERICA" MAGAZINE: Certainly.

FRAZIER: Let's talk first about the choices for Americans. Did it signal anything to American Catholics?

REESE: Well, there wasn't much surprise when Arch Bishop Egan was made a cardinal, that was expected.

FRAZIER: That's Edward Egan of New York.

REESE: That's right. Because New York is such an important archdiocese, it was expected that he would be made a cardinal, and also Archbishop McKerrick (ph) of Washington, D.C. -- that was expected.

FRAZIER: Now, both od those men, Father, were recently reassigned, weren't they? Egan from Bridgeport, and McKerrick from Newark.

REESE: That's true, they just became the archbishops of those major archdioceses; and this was the first time the pope had an opportunity to make them cardinals.

FRAZIER: Now, what about Avery Dulles, this very interesting man, who is a Jesuit, and order not really favored by this pope.

REESE: Well, Avery Dulles a very prominent Jesuit -- American Theologian -- who is being honored because of his work in theology. This is the first time an American Theologian has been honored in this way. In the past, it has always been European Theologians that have been honored by making them cardinals, so this is a sign of the honor and respect that the pope has for him, and the work that he's been doing.

FRAZIER: In Layman's terms, what is it about his theological writings that require this honor? REESE: Well, Father Dulles has written 21 books and over 600 articles -- in fact, he's written 44 articles for "America" Magazine alone. He has been a teacher of many, many people who became theologians, he's been an adviser to the American bishops, so he's been a really -- a very prolific and loyal theologian in the church and I think that is why the pope is honoring him.

FRAZIER: Now, why were trying to say earlier that this ensures the pope's legacy, which will be what? He is so liberal on some issues; so conservative on some other doctrinal matters.

REESE: That's correct. And I think the pope has looked for people that reflect his own views on the important issues that face the church, so he has been very strong and vocal about social justice issues, about his concern for religious freedom and human rights in the Third World, he's called for forgiveness of Third World debt, he's been in opposition to capital punishment.

I mean, all of these issues, he's to the left of liberal Democrats in this country. On the other hand, he has been very strongly against abortion, he's very strong in supporting Catholic church traditions. And for these things, he's been labeled a conservative. So I think that he has been looking for people that reflect his views in appointing them to the college of cardinals.

FRAZIER: Would you say that any of these newest cardinals have a chance of becoming pope themselves down the road?

REESE: Well, I think there's a couple in the college of cardinals. Cardinal Baptista Ray (ph) who was just made a cardinal this morning is an Italian who has worked in the Vatican all his life, who is very prominent and spoken of as someone who might be the next pope. There's also a cardinal from Honduras, who is very well liked by the Latin American bishops and could possibly be a cardinal.

Some of them are too young. For example, Cardinal Napier from South Africa is still in his late 50s, which is probably too young for someone. But you know, in a few years, he might be someone who would be considered a candidate.

FRAZIER: Well, we will be turning to you for that update, Father Thomas Reese. Thank you for joining us on this significant day for the church.

REESE: Certainly.

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