POPE BENEDICT XVI has created 15 new members of the College of Cardinals, calling on them to be even stronger witnesses of God's love for the world and their own love for the Church.
At last Friday's ceremony. in which the prelates from 11 countries became cardinals, he prayed that the red garments they now wore would inspire them to an even more "passionate love for Christ, for his church and for all humanity".
Giving them rings during a Mass the day after, he told them they are called to serve the Church "with the love of a spouse".
At both services American Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the first of the new carclinals to approach the Pope.
Cardinal Levada, the former Archbishop of San Francisco, addressed the Pope on behalf of the new caniinals on Friday.
In accepting their new status, Cardinal Levada said, the new cardinals renewed their commitment of 'total love and unconditional fidelity to Christ the Lord and to the Christian people".
"This love for Jesus Christ and his Church, this fidelity to humanity which has a burning thirst for tnah, we want to place into your hands," he told the Pope.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston was also among the 15 to join the College of Cardinals in the first consistory of Pope Benedict's pontificate.
The Holy Father told the entire college, which now has 193 members. that he counted on them "to proclaim to the world that God is love.
"Ensure that the principle of love will spread far and wide and will give new life to the church," he said.
At Mass the next day, the Pope put a ring on the finger of each audinal saying: "Receive the ring from the hand of Peter and know that with the love of the prince of the apostles your love for the Church will be reinforced."
Among the most applauded of the new cardinals at the Mass were Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz 4 Krakow, Pope John Paul ll's longtime personal secretary, and Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.
After the ring Mass Pope Benedict hosted a lunch for the new cardinals and the 140 other members of the college who came to the Vatican for a meeting with the Pope and for the two days of ceremonies for their new peers.
During the consistory, all of the new cardinals were supported by groups of family, friends and the faithful, who cheered and waved flags when their cardinal went forward to kneel at the Pope's feet.
Among the Boston pilgrims in the square was Frank Woodward, who said Cardinal O'Malley "has had a calming influence" on the Boston archdiocese in the wake of the clerical sex abuse scandal.
Cardinal Zen was cheered by some 300 Chinese Catholics who gathered at the Vatican from around the world. The group included 100 clergy and nuns from mainland China studying in Rome. The dele
gation from Hong Kong numbered 141 people, including the cardinal's oldest and youngest sisters.
During the Friday ceremony a special prayer was offered in Chinese -for all those who still suffer because of their Christian faith." The crowd prayed that "in prayer they would experience the certainty of communion with the whole Church and that one day they will harvest in joy that which they have sown in patience and love for long years."
The oldest of the new cardi
nals, 87-year-old Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, retired Archbishop of Tamale, Ghana, was seated in a wheelchair and was carried up the steps of St Peter's Square to the Pope.
Pope Benec.lict stood to place the red hat, called a biretta, on Cardinal Dery's head and caressed the cardinal's cheek after offering him the sign of peace.
The last cardinal created was 82-year-old French Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, a noted biblical scholar.
Cardinal Vanhoye told the newspaper Avvenire that he was called by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, a couple of days before Pope Benedict announced the new cardinals. "I asked myself, Why are they looking for me? What exegetical errors did 1 make in my writings?' he said. The news that Pope Benedict was about to name him a cardinal "fell from the sky; I could not believe it", he said.
The new cardinals included Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, Cardinal Agostino Vallini,Prefect of the Apostolic Signature, Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savin, Archbishop of Caracas.and Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila. They also included Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, Cardinal Antonio Caitizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jinsuk of Seoul, Korea, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna and Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls.