VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2001 ( Two questions follow last Sunday´s announcement of the names of two cardinals kept secret by John Paul II since 1998. Why were their names not disclosed three years ago? And why were they revealed now?

Answers to these questions hinge on last Sunday´s announcement of the elevation to cardinal of Archbishop Major Lubomyr Husar of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics of Lviv.

The cardinals whose names the Pope kept "in pectore" (in his heart) are Marian Jaworski, 74, Latin-rite archbishop of Lviv, and Janis Pujats, 70, archbishop of Riga, Latvia.

These two men have defended the faith in former Soviet countries, and today are called to overcome the problems existing in relations with the Orthodox Church.

In recent decades, popes sometimes kept secret the names of cardinals-to-be who lived under Communist oppression. However, this was not the case of Ukraine or Latvia, which have been independent republics for the past decade.

According to Luigi Geninazzi, one of the most qualified experts on the life of the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe, the Pope´s decision to keep secret the names of two new cardinals was an attempt to lessen the tensions with the Orthodox in those lands, which emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. Geninazzi´s comments appeared in the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire.

In Ukraine, the Orthodox are suspicious of the rebirth of the Catholic Church, especially in the case of the Greek-Catholic communities, which they regard as a thorn in the side, Geninazzi explained.

"The situation is even more complicated in Latvia," he said, "because of the internal diatribes of the Orthodox Church, which have reached the point of causing a real schism in the Patriarchate of Moscow. To elevate bishops of this turbulent frontier to cardinals would have sharpened the differences and also the hostilities with the ´separated brethren.´"

The situation has not changed over the past three years, Geninazzi added, "but John Paul II´s outlook has changed,"

Today, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement, "It all hinges on the appointment of Husar." The latter was chosen archbishop major of the Greek-Catholics. John Paul II included him in the list of new cardinals to honor these faithful communities, which have suffered persecution.

Therefore, having named the Greek-Catholic leader of Ukraine Cardinal, main target of the Moscow Patriarchate´s criticisms, with whom it shares the same liturgy and traditions, but disagrees on the issue of loyalty to the Pope, it was logical to reveal the appointment of the Ukrainian archbishop of Catholics of the Latin rite and the archbishop of the capital of Latvia.

Ukrainian Cardinal-designate Jaworski is an old friend of the Pope. He collaborated with him in Krakow and, in fact, lost a hand in a train accident, when he was traveling to an event to substitute Karol Wojtyla.

For his part, Latvian Pujats is the heir of Cardinal Julijans Vaivods (1895-1990), intrepid archbishop of Riga, who stood up to Communist officials.

As John Paul said Sunday, in this way he hopes to honor "the respective Churches that, especially in the course of the 20th century, were sorely tried and offered the world the example of many Christians who have had to witness to their faith in the midst of sufferings of all kinds, at times cuminating in the sacrifice of life."

Thus, Geninazzi commented, the Polish Pope reminds faithful of the most profound meaning of the cardinal´s red hat: readiness to serve the Church even to the point of spilling one´s blood. This appeal also refers, Geninazzi said, to the future of Catholics in those lands "so that they will know how to combine the courage of witness with the endeavor of patient dialogue" with the Orthodox Church.