The appointment of 44 new cardinals by Pope John Paul in February suggests a moderating influence among this body of papal electors as well as new Latin American influence.
The liberal National Catholic Reporter (Feb. 9) notes that analysts are puzzled by the selection of such moderates as German Archbishops Karl Lehmann and Walter Kasper. Lehmann in particular has criticized Vatican actions, such as prohibitions against divorced and remarried Catholics receiving the sacraments, and called for greater democracy in the church. With other moderates already appointed, including Italy’s Cardinal Martini, the “moderate faction seems to have gained new life” after a long period of conservative appointments, writes John Allen.
Observers say that John Paul may have moved against the counsel of his advisors in a desire to transcend church politics. Others say that the election of the German cardinals was made under pressure since Germany is the Vatican’s largest donor. Inside the Vatican, (February) a conservative monthly, notes that Lehmann, who was the last appointment made, is a “mystery,” but adds that there were other puzzles in the recent appointments.
The pope, who is eager to reconcile with Eastern Orthodox churches, selected two Eastern Rite Catholic patriarchs from the former Soviet Union for red hats. This move may unintentionally intensify Orthodox tensions with Rome, since they see Eastern Rite Catholics (who retain Orthodox practices while accepting the authority of the pope) as encroaching on their territory. Since one-quarter of the new appointments are from Latin America, some see the idea of a Latin American pope as no longer far-fetched. Also surprising, there were few other Third World or Eastern Europe appointments.
(Inside The Vatican, via delle Mura Aurelie, 7C, Rome 00165, Italy)