Baltic archbishops become cardinals

  • 2001-03-01
  • BNS
RIGA - Pope John Paul II installed 44 Roman Catholic clergymen from 27 countries as cardinals, among them the Latvian Roman Catholic Archbishop Janis Pujats and Vilnius Archbishop Audrys Juozas Backis, in the Vatican Feb. 22.

The ceremony brings the total number of cardinals to 184, 135 of whom are below 80 years of age. They, including Pujats, will be entitled to elect the next Pope from amongst themselves. Although 96 of the cardinals are from Europe, most of them are older than 80.

The consistory, in which the men swore their loyalty to the Pope, took place in brilliant sunshine in a colorful ceremony before some 40,000 people who came to St Peter's Square from around the world.

"Today is a great day for the universal Church," the Pope, resplendent in gold vestments and speaking in a sometimes hoarse, trembling voice, said in his homily.

In the ceremony were a large number of Lithuanian and Latvian Catholics. "This is an exciting moment not only for Latvia's Catholics but for the whole of Latvia. But on this nice sunny day here in Rome we must not forget those 50 years of suffering the Catholic Church in Latvia had to experience during the last century," said Latvian justice minister Ingrida Labucka, who was at the ceremony.

Of the newly created cardinals 23 are from Europe, 11 from Latin America, three from North America, four from Asia and three from Africa.

Pope John Paul II announced on Jan. 28 that he had secretly appointed Pujats as a cardinal in 1998.