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The BBC's Brian Barron
"Pope John Paul II once again showed his steely will power"
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The BBC's David Willey
"There were no dissidents among today's appointees"
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Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O'Connor
"Once you become a cardinal, you advise the Pope on central Church policy"
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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 12:22 GMT
New cardinals accept red hats
Cardinals climb the stairs at St Peter's, Rome, 21 Feb 2001
The ceremony was the largest of its kind ever
Forty-four new cardinals have sworn allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church at a ceremony in the Vatican - a record number in a single ceremony.

Kneeling before Pope John Paul II, each cardinal received the traditional red hat and gold ring of office on a bright and sunny Rome morning.

Pope John Paul II in Egypt, Feb 2001
The Pope is frail and elderly
The consistory, as the event is called, is likely to be the last for the ageing Pope, who will be 81 this year.

The new members join the College of Cardinals, which advises the Pope and will elect his eventual successor.

In his homily, the Pope said the fact that the new cardinals come from 27 different countries was a sign that the message of Christ was being carried by the Roman Catholic Church to peoples of many different languages and traditions.

John Paul has appointed 160 of the 184 cardinals during his 22-year reign, and many believe this means his successor will be someone after his own heart - liberal on social justice issues, conservative on personal morality.

But experts say it is always difficult to predict how cardinals will vote, and that, try as he might, no pope can guarantee that his successor will be to his liking.

Italians still dominant

Although John Paul has appointed unprecedented numbers of cardinals from Latin America, Africa and the South Pacific, BBC religious affairs correspondent Jane Little says the next pope is likely to be Italian.

Archbishop Claudio Hummes of Sao Paulo
Brazilian Archbishop Claudio Hummes joins the ranks
Until John Paul II - a Pole - was elected in 1978, Italians had controlled the papacy without break for 450 years.

There is a chance that a Latin American could be chosen, with a record 20% of cardinals now from that region.

But favourites include a number of Italians, such as Giovanni Battista Re - a close adviser to the current Pope and prefect of the Congregation of Bishops - who becomes a cardinal on Wednesday.

Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, a relatively liberal Jesuit is another name often floated, as is Dionigi Tettamanzi of Genoa, a more moderate choice known for a sense of humour.

Outside chance

The popular press in Italy has suggested that Nigerian Francis Arinze could be chosen, but few believe the Church is ready for a black African pope.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini
Cardinal Martini is liberal by Church standards
Only 135 of the 184 cardinals have voting rights; Pope Paul VI, who ruled from 1963 to 1978, decreed that cardinals over the age of 80 could not vote in papal elections.

He also ruled that the number of electors should not exceed 120, but John Paul II has changed that decree.

He could also restore the voting rights of over-80s, but has given no indication that he intends to do so.

With elderly cardinals disenfranchised, Pope John Paul will have created 93% of the voting cardinals after Wednesday's ceremony.

His 22-year reign is the longest since that of Leo XIII, who died in 1903.

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See also:

21 Feb 01 | Europe
Analysis: Choosing the next pope
28 Jan 01 | Europe
Pope names secret cardinals
21 Jan 01 | Europe
Pope names new cardinals
21 Jan 01 | Europe
The full list of new cardinals
06 Jan 01 | Europe
Pope closes Holy Door
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