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New cardinals trump Asian bishops


VATICAN (SE): The six new cardinals appointed out of season by Pope Benedict XVI during the Synod of Bishops, which concluded in Rome on October 28, have trumped the Asian bishops who were scheduled to gather for their four-yearly meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, from November 16 to 25.

By scheduling the elevation of the new cardinals, two of whom are from Asia, for November 24, plans for the gathering marking the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences have been scuttled.

The decision has been called everything from thoughtless to reflecting a very personal decision of the pope.

UCA News quoted one person the conference as calling it “a blatant example of the carelessness of the pope’s announcement.”

If indeed, as seems to be implied by some Vatican officials, the pope did make the decision without consulting anybody, it may add some credibility to the claim of convicted Vatileaks felon, Paulo Gabriele, that the successor to St. Peter really is kept in the dark about a lot of things.

However, the Hong Kong-based assistant secretary general of the federation, Father Ray O’Toole, said, “Everything ran smoothly, it was just a matter of switching dates.” He added that most people think they can still turn up and others said they can send a substitute.

Although the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Jean Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, said that the government had been cooperative in granting visas for the gathering, there have been reports of bishops from some countries having difficulties.

The National Catholic Reporter quoted Father O’Toole as saying, “I have no idea whether the Holy See was aware of our plenary. But a few weeks before the announcement of the consistory the Holy See did appoint a papal envoy for the November 16 to 25 plenary.”

December 10 to 16 has been settled as the new dates for the meeting that has been two years in the planning.

The two Asian bishops included in the papal list of cardinals-designate are Archbishop Luis Tagle, from Manila in The Philippines; and Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, the head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in India.

The other four are Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, from Lebanon; Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, from Abuja in Nigeria; Archbishop James Harvey, from the United States of America; and Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomes, from Colombia.

Archbishop Thottunkal is the youngest at 53 and Patriarch Rai the oldest at 73. He is closely followed by Archbishop Salazar at 70 and the American archbishop is in the middle at 63.

Archbishop Tagle is 55, as is Archbishop Onaiyekan.

At the synod, the pope also announced that seminaries will be shifted from the jurisdiction of the Congregation for Catholic Education and Catechesis and the Congregation for the Clergy, to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, the Vatican Information Service reported on October 29.


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