On February 21st, 2001, Pope John Paul II created forty-two new Cardinals, among them the reigning pontiff, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. Vatican News gave the big day a bigging up, with a video montage rehearsing the twenty years intervening and a reflection that weaves the words of Mario Bergoglio when he was Archbishop of B’Aires into those of Francis’s pontificate. The images are stunning, richly evocative and powerfully moving.
What about the others created that day?
There were dedicated Churchmen, whose names readers will surely recognize: Walter Kasper, Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Claudio Hummes, Lubomyr Husar, and Karl Lehmann come to mind.
It was also the day on which the monstrous Theodore Edgar “Uncle Ted” McCarrick got the red hat, along with former pro-nuncio to the US Agostino Cacciavillan, Des Connell of Dublin, Egan of New York, Errázuriz of Santiago, Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa (still serving), inter alia.
Two great Jesuits got the red hat honoris causa: Roberto Tucci and Avery Dulles.
One man, François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận, was a confessor and hero of the faith, whose story is one the good man will teach his son.
The Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syrians, His Beatitude Ignatius Moses I (Basile) Daoud, also got his red hat that day – though he was Patriarch emeritus when he got it, since John Paul II had called him to Rome and service in the Roman Curia as Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches. Daoud served roughly six years and a half in Rome and resigned in 2007. He died in Rome in 2012. If there was ever another sitting Patriarch who resigned his see to come to Rome for an office job (Venice doesn’t count), I can’t think of him just now. Daoud was also the last Eastern Churchman to serve as head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Perú was another who got his hat that day – a real baller – sometimes touted as a dark horse candidate in 2013.
Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban got his red hat that day, as well. He is still serving, too, though he is almost 80. He may have to wait a little longer for well-deserved rest, as his coadjutor, Archbishop Abel Gabuza, died untimely of Covid-19 earlier this year.
The 21st February 2001 consistory was also the last time a pope revealed the names of cardinals created in pectore: Archbishop Marian Jaworksi of Lviv, Ukraine; and Janis Pujats of Riga, Latvia. John Paul II created another cardinal in pectore in 2003, but never revealed his name.
In any case, that day, twenty years ago today, was a momentous one in the life of the Church in the 21st century. Who knows if John Paul II – now a saint in heaven – had even the slightest inkling of what it was he was doing that day?
We’re still feeling its effects in the present, and will continue to feel them for good and for ill, for some time to come.