Sitting in his golden chair, Pope John Paul II elevated 22 new cardinals Saturday, placing the red, three-cornered hat on their heads that symbolizes their role as the "princes" of the church.
The pontiff summoned the men - dressed in crimson cassocks, capes and socks - to lead the Roman Catholic Church into Christianity's third millennium."You are called, along with the other members of the College of Cardinals, to help the pope guide the ship of St. Peter to this historic goal," the pope told them.
A cardinal's most important job is electing a new pope, and John Paul's latest appointments indicated that the 77-year-old pontiff is entrusting the church to men who share his by-the-book orthodoxy.
Among the new cardinals were two conservative North Americans: Chicago Archbishop Francis Eugene George and former Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, now head of the Vatican council on the laity, and Toronto Archbishop Aloysius M. Ambrozic.
With the elevation of George and Stafford, the United States now has a record 11 voting cardinals, second only to Italy's 22.
As in the past, John Paul's vision was international in choosing new cardinals. They included one African, at least one Asian, four Latin Americans and 11 Europeans in addition to the new North American cardinals.
The identities of two cardinals are secret, most likely for political reasons. Speculation is that they are from China or Vietnam, where the church is suppressed.
The new cardinals range in age and style from Adam Kozlowiecki, a humble, 87-year-old Polish missionary in Africa, to 53-year-old Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, a scion of Bohemian nobility who is his family's third cardinal.
Several of the new cardinals are seen as "papabile" - potential popes. Among them are Schoenborn, a highly respected theologian whom John Paul gave the important job of preparing the church's new catechism, and Dionigi Tettamanzi of Genoa, a national favorite in a country that dominated the papacy for centuries.
John Paul has now named 106 - or 86 percent - of the 123 cardinals eligible to choose his successor.