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Pope summons cardinals for rare meeting at Vatican

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-20

Pope Benedict XVI met with over 100 cardinals at the Vatican on Friday to discuss issues of religious freedom and child sex abuse among other key issues. There will also be a ceremony Saturday to create 24 new cardinals.

AP - The world’s cardinals met Friday at the Vatican to discuss religious freedom and other issues amid a new dispute with China over an illicit ordination that threatens delicate relations between the two.

Pope Benedict XVI summoned the cardinals for a day of reflection before a ceremony Saturday to create 24 new cardinals. The top agenda, religious freedom, grew remarkably timely given China’s planned ordination Saturday of a bishop who doesn’t have the pope’s approval.
 
The Vatican warned China on Thursday that efforts at reconciliation would be set back if bishops loyal to the pope were forced to attend the ordination. The Vatican said such actions would constitute “grave violations of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”
 
Liu Bainian, vice chairman for China’s state-backed church, the Catholic Patriotic Association, said Friday the ordination was going ahead but that the presence of other bishops at the ceremony was voluntary.
 
As he arrived Friday for the meeting, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken advocate of democracy and religious freedom in China, sharply rebuked China for proceeding with the ordination.
 
“It is really shameful, such an attempt to make another illegitimate ordination. It’s incredible,” Zen told The Associated Press. “It’s against the whole civilization of today.”
 
Communist China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and worship is allowed only in state-backed churches, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to the Vatican.
 
In recent years under Pope Benedict XVI relations have improved. Disputes over appointments in China’s official church have been avoided by quietly conferring on candidates, leading to several ordinations of bishops with the Holy See’s blessing.
 
However, Fr. Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde does not have the pope’s approval.
 
Other issues being discussed Friday include the sex abuse scandal, the Vatican’s offer to let Anglicans convert en masse to Catholicism, relations with other Christians and the state of the liturgy in the church.
 
With such a full agenda and some 150 cardinals taking part, no major developments are expected.
 
Benedict announced last month he was naming 24 new cardinals, whose primary job is to elect a new pope, and would convene a day of reflection ahead of the ceremony to formally elevate them.
 
As a result, Friday’s consultations have the air of a pre-conclave, with cardinals new and old discussing the church’s biggest problems and seeing who among them might be able to deal with them as pontiff.
 
The new members bring the College of Cardinals to 203, 121 of whom are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave.
 
With the new cardinals, Benedict will have chosen 40 percent of the College of Cardinals, infusing the elite group with conservative, tradition-minded prelates like himself and nearly ensuring that a future pope won’t radically change the direction of the church.
 
The cardinals’ Class of 2011 is heavily Italian, due mostly to the fact that the Vatican bureaucracy is heavily Italian and Benedict named a slew of new Vatican officials recently who get red hats because of their jobs.
 
Their numbers have swelled the Italian bloc within the college - Italians will have 25 electors, nearly half of Europe’s voting-age cardinals - leading to speculation that the papacy could swing back to the Italians following a Polish and German pope.
 
In addition to Vatican bureaucrats, others getting the red hats are archbishops of major archdioceses including Kinshasa, Congo; Aparecida, Brazil; Washington, D.C., and Benedict’s old archdiocese Munich.
JOSEPHINE MCKENNA REPORTING FROM THE VATICAN
 
 

Date created : 2010-11-19

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