Show of Unity as al-Rahi Becomes Cardinalإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Politically divided Lebanese made on Saturday a show of unity during an official ceremony in Rome that allowed Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to join the elite club of churchmen who will elect the next pope.
Pope Benedict XVI formally elevated five other prelates at the ceremony that was held at St. Peter's Basilica, bestowing red hats and gold rings on them.
With the new additions, the College of Cardinals is more multinational: Latin America, which boasts half of the world's Catholics, now has 21 voting-age cardinals; North America, 14; Africa, 11; Asia, 11; and Oceana, one.
In addition to al-Rahi, the new cardinals are: Archbishop James Harvey, the American prefect of the papal household. Abuja, Nigeria Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Bogota, Colombia Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez; Manila, Philippines Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.
In explaining his choices for this "little consistory," Benedict said he was essentially completing his last cardinal-making ceremony held in February, when he elevated 22 cardinals, the vast majority of them European archbishops and Vatican bureaucrats.
Cardinals serve as the pope's closest advisers, but their main task is to elect a new pope.
The six new cardinals are all under age 80. Their nominations bring the number of voting-age cardinals to 120, 67 of whom were named by Benedict, all but ensuring that his successor will be chosen from a group of like-minded prelates.
Around 500 officials and politicians led by President Michel Suleiman were among 1,500 Lebanese attending Saturday's ceremony.
Lebanese officials from across the political spectrum, except for Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Miqati, were on hand for the consistory.
Berri sent a representative and Miqati was represented by Information Minister Walid al-Daouq.
On the eve of the event, the pope emphasized the importance of dialogue as a means of solving problems among Lebanon's bickering politicians.
He made his remark during a meeting with Suleiman.
The pope also urged them to strengthen stability so that Lebanon remains “a model of interaction despite the difficulties” in the region.
His choice to elevate al-Rahi is seen by observers as a sign of Vatican support for religious diversity in Lebanon, which Benedict said was a "model" for the region during a visit in September.
The pope has called for peaceful coexistence between Islam and Christianity and has said Christians should stay in the Middle East despite rising Islamism.