Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo was the only Asian Church leader elevated to cardinal by the pope during the Nov 20 consistory at the Vatican.

ROME – Pope Benedict XVI created 24 new cardinals, including one from Asia, and called them to be strong in spreading and defending the faith and giving humble service within the Church.

A Sri Lankan delegation witnessed the elevation of Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo in Pope Benedict’s third consistory, held on Nov 20-21 at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The pope placed the biretta, a square red hat symbolising martyrs’ blood, on the new cardinals during the Saturday Eucharistic celebration and the new cardinals were given rings during Sunday’s ceremony.

Quoting from the Gospel, Pope Benedict XVI urged humility among the new cardinals, saying, “Whoever wants to be first must be servant of all.”

The College of Cardinals now has 203 members, of whom 121 are under the age of 80 and eligible to elect a new pope.

Sri Lanka’s official delegation had over 200 participants including 70 priests, six Members of Parliament, Religious and laity.

Aside from the Religious and lay students in Rome, Sri Lankans from several Italian cities also stayed overnight to attend the two-day event.

“This is a one-time chance to witness the cardinal-making ceremony,” said Father Pradeep Prashant Fernando from Palermo, southern Italy.

In his homily on Nov 20, Pope Benedict said he chose as cardinals “pastors who govern important diocesan communities with zeal, prelates in charge of dicasteries of the Roman Curia or who have served the church and the Holy See with exemplary fidelity”.

Jesus’ teaching that authority means humble service is a message that continues to be valid for the Church, “especially for those who have the task of guiding the people of God”, the pope said. “It is not the logic of domination, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bowing down to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the cross, which is at the basis

of every exercise of authority.” Sri Lankan priest Fr Sritharan Sylvester said the appointment would mean that the new cardinal would be able to play a more active role in addressing issues facing Sri Lanka.

Archbishop Ranjith is Sri Lanka’s second cardinal.


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