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Sunday, February 22, 1998 Published at 15:19 GMT

World: Europe

Pope celebrates mass with new cardinals
image: [ The Pope celebrates mass with 19 of the new cardinals ]
The Pope celebrates mass with 19 of the new cardinals

Thousands of pilgrims and tourists at the Vatican have watched Pope John Paul celebrate mass with 19 of the new cardinals he appointed on Saturday.

During a colourful open-air ceremony in St Peter's Square, the Pope gave each of the cardinals the traditional gold ring of office.

With the new cardinals, the 77-year-old Pope has added to the more than 100 elite group of prelates that will elect his successor after his death.

[ image: The cardinals will elect the Pope's successor]
The cardinals will elect the Pope's successor
At the mass, the pontiff exhorted them to look toward Christianity's third millennium, which he called an "occasion of renewal for believers."

He said the new millennium should signal "an extraordinary spring-time of hope."

Pope John Paul II created a total of 22 new cardinals on Saturday, but two of them were created in secret for political reasons.

One of the two confidential appointments was believed to be Su Zhimin, bishop of the Chinese city of Baoding, who was arrested in October last year.

The new cardinals are drawn from 13 countries, reflecting a Vatican policy to internationalise the inner sanctums of the Roman Catholic Church.

Their cities of origin range from Chicago, Toronto, Madrid and Vienna to Dar-es-Salaam and Taiwan.

The new batch of cardinals includes several seen as potential popes.

Among them are Vienna's new cardinal, Christoph Schoenborn, a highly-respected theologian whom the Pope entrusted with preparing the church's new catechism, and Dionigi Tettamanzi of Genoa.

The new cardinals range in age from 53 to 87. With their elevation, the average age of voting cardinals is now 71. Those over 80 will not be entitled to vote in any papal election.

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