Great news from the Vatican! Pope Benedict announced that he would be making 24 new cardinals.
That means 24 men need new clerical garb, as they now have the right to be decked out in red. And a red hat in this town means membership in the College of Cardinals, whose most important duty is to elect the new pope.
Only those under the age of 80 are eligible to vote, and four of the new cardinals are over 80 – named mostly as an honorary recognition of their service.
Of the 20 others who will get the red hat, a whopping eight are Italians. That’s a clear sign of just how powerful the Italian presence still is at the top of the Catholic Church, even though the global Catholic population is increasingly less and less European.
Two Americans are on today’s list, and neither a surprise, considering the positions they hold: Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Raymond Burke, the former Archbishop of St. Louis.
Burke is the head of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, roughly the equivalent of the Vatican’s Supreme Court. He infuriated liberal Catholics during the 2004 election season when he said that John Kerry would not be welcome to receive communion in St. Louis because of his position on abortion.
He has also said that Catholic politicians who have supported abortion rights and confused the faithful by doing so should repent and do public penance.