By Luke Coppen
ARCHBISHOP Comae MurphyO'Connor will be made a cardinal at one of the largest consistories in recent memory, it was confirmed this week.
The Archbishop of Westminster said he was "deeply honoured" to be among the 37 priests and bishops who will receive the red hat from Pope John Paul II next month.
"I see this as a great honour for the Catholic Church in England and Wales and as a sign of the warmth that exists in the relationship between the Holy See and the Catholic community in this country," he said.
The announcement on Sunday was warmly welcomed by other Christian leaders.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, expressed delight at Archbishop Murphy-0 ' Connor's nomination.
He said: "I congratulate him warmly on this honour, which recognises his contribution as a pastor and a leader."
The consistory on February 21 will also see the creation of a new Irish cardinal, Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin, Primate of Ireland. He and Archbishop MurphyO'Connor will increase the number of cardinals in Britain and Ireland to four.
Pope sets personal seal on cardinals' college
From Bruce Johnston, Rome correspondent
POPE JOHN PAUL 11 set the scene for his own succession on Sunday, by announcing plans for the largest creation of cardinals in his long papacy.
Speaking before the Angelus prayer, the pontiff, 80, announced that he would be convening the College of Cardinals on February 21, when he would create 37 new members.
The consistory will be the eighth of this papacy, but on Sunday the Pope suggested it would not be his last, when he said others expecting a cardinal's hat should not be discouraged.
The next consistory will bring the college up to 128 electing cardinals, or eight over the limit set by rules established by Pope Paul VI, making it the largest College of Cardinals in history.
It is the third time that John Paul II has stretched the limit, partly in order to take account of a pressure for a greater representation of countries. The appointments, to be formalised at next month's consistory, are meant to replenish the depleted College with new members below the age of 80, after which cardinals are not eligible to vote in a conclave.
This consistory will bring to 112 the cardinals Pope John Paul II has created in the last decade, meaning that the next conclave will be virtually entirely of cardinals of his own choosing.
The large number of cardinals this time reflects the many new holders of metropolitan archbishoprics which traditionally are held by cardinals, and the fact that some cardinals still eligible to vote now are soon due to turn 80.
Among the new metropolitan cardinals named were the new Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Desmond Connell.
Of the new cardinals eligible to vote to choose a papal successor, 11 are curial. While the country with the most new cardinals was Italy with seven, a development that suggested that the steady fall of its influence since the last war has been checked.
The nature of the Italian appointees' positions — all but one of which are curial — are to some extent also indicative of Vatican priorities. Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, 66, is the influential new prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;
Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, 74, is in charge of Holy See property; Archbishop Sergio Sebastiani, 69, heads its economic affairs; and the ambitious Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, 57, ran the Church's successful Jubilee celebrations.
The largest continental grouping was that of Latin America. By scooping 11 cardinals' hats, the growing importance of an area which now represents half of the world's Catholics was underlined, while increasing the likelihood that the next Pope, if not Italian, will be from central or southern America.
In addition to the Archbishops of Quito, Salvador da Bahia, Bogota, Santiago, Caracas, Lima, Sao Paulo, Tegucigalpa and Buenos Aires, two Latin American members of the Curia will also be made cardinals. The most important among the new Latin American cardinals is Archbishop Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegugigalpa, Honduras. who at only 58 is already tipped as an important candidate for the papacy.
But another probable future front-runner for the papacy, especially in an interim context, is the Vietnamese Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, 72, whose name also featured among the 37 new cardinals.
One of the surprise names was that of Walter Kasper, a German theologian, who is to take over from Cardinal Edward Cassidy as head of Christian Unity.
Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima will become the first member of the controversial Opus Dei lay religious organisation to become a cardinal.
Five of the new cardinals are over 80. Among them is Fr Avery Dulles, 82, the son of the late US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Fr Dulles, the first US priesttheologian ever to be given the red hat, was an agnostic until his conversion to Catholicism in 1940.
He later joined the Jesuits and has written 21 theological books and 650 articles. Fr Dulles stunned the liberal Catholic establishment in 1996 when he said that Church teaching against ordaining women priests cannot be debated.
Two years later he accused the Catholic Theological Society of America of "theological dissent" and questioned whether it was losing its Catholic character. Upon hearing of his nomination, he promised to try in the future "to look and act He will be joined at the consistory by two fellow Americans. Archbishop Edward Egan of New York and Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington, DC.