By Sam Eyoboka with Agency reports
CATHOLIC Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, Saturday, in a solemn ceremony at the St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, created 22 new cardinals including the Metropolitan and Archbishop of Abuja, Archbishop John Olufemi Onaiyekan.
Onaiyekan thus joins fellow Nigerians – Francis Cardinal Arinze and Anthony Cardinal Okogie – in the Catholic College of Cardinals.
Onaiyekan hails from Kabba, Kogi State.
Benedict received the cardinals-designate from his throne under a soaring dome designed by Michelangelo, as one by one they knelt before the 84-year-old pontiff and received the red silk square-ridged hats, called birettas, that signify princes of the church.
With today’s ceremony, there are now 125 cardinals under the age of 80, and thus eligible to vote for the next pope. More than half of the cardinal-electors are now Italians and other Europeans, strengthening the Western voice at the church’s highest levels even as the rank and file grows most rapidly in the global south.
Only three of the new cardinals hailed from the developing world: Brazil, India and Hong Kong.
One reason for the shift toward European cardinals may be that Pope Benedict, a German, who worked for much of his career at the Vatican, has been highly concerned about, and focused on, the decline of Roman Catholicism in Europe, according to the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.