John Paul II Creates 44 New Cardinals

Reminds Them Church Is Not Based on Human Power

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2001 ( John Paul II created a record 44 new cardinals this morning, and reminded them that «the Church is not based on calculations or human power, but on Jesus crucified.»

The first consistory of the millennium was held in a sunny St. Peter´s Square, with 40,000 people on hand. The most intense moment took place when each new cardinal knelt before the Pope and received the biretta.

To each the Holy Father said in Latin, «It is red, the sign of a cardinal´s dignity, which means that you must be prepared to conduct yourself with fortitude, to the spilling of blood, for the growth of the Christian faith, peace, and tranquility of the People of God, and for the liberty and diffusion of the Holy Roman Church.»

Among those receiving the red hat were Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who spent 13 years in Communist prisons and camps in Vietnam, and five archbishops of Eastern Europe, who came out from under Communism a decade ago.

Earlier, the new cardinals pronounced together the formula of swearing fidelity to the Pope, of remaining in communion with the Catholic Church, of keeping the secrets confided to them by the Pontiff and his ministry, and of carrying out with dedication the tasks entrusted to them.

The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, greeted John Paul II on behalf of all the new cardinals. He denied media reports that claim John Paul II´s pontificate has come to an end.

«The People of God still need the example of Your Holiness´ dedication,» Cardinal Re said, «even when your physical strength is diminishing, because at the same time the sign of your paternity and your witness of prayer and suffering for the benefit of the Church increases.»

This, he said, highlights «the fact that, although it is important to do things, it is even more important to be; and that deep down, it is Christ who guides the Church.»

The Pope showed signs of profound emotion during the event. He dedicated his homily to recall Christ´s words: «Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.»

«The Church is not based on calculations or human power, but on Jesus crucified and on the consistent witness given of him by the apostles, the martyrs and confessors of the faith,» the Pontiff explained. «It is a witness that can even exact the heroism of the total giving of oneself to God and brothers.»

«Every Christian knows that he is called to faithfulness without compromise, which can also exact the supreme sacrifice,» the Holy Father added.

John Paul II reminded the new cardinals of their other great mission: «assistance to and collaboration with» the Bishop of Rome.

The Pope asked the cardinals to be martyrs of love in today´s world, a world «that is increasingly complicated and changing,» in which «the acute awareness of existing discrepancies generates or increases contradictions and imbalances.»

«The enormous possibilities of scientific and technological progress, as well as the phenomenon of globalization, which increasingly extends to new fields, demands that we always be open to dialogue with every person, with every social event, with the intention of giving each one a reason for the hope we bear in our heart,» the Holy Father said.

On Thursday morning John Paul II will concelebrate Mass in St. Peter´s Square with the new cardinals and give them the cardinal´s ring.

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