VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI named six new cardinals on Wednesday, adding prelates from Lebanon, the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, India and the United States to the ranks of senior churchmen who will elect his successor.
Among them is Archbishop James Harvey, the American prefect of the papal household who was the direct superior of the pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele. Gabriele was convicted Oct. 6 of stealing the pope's private papers and leaking them to a reporter in the greatest Vatican security breach in modern times. Harvey will now become archpriest of a Roman basilica. The Vatican spokesman denied he was being removed because of the scandal.
Benedict, 85, announced the new cardinals during his weekly general audience and said they would be formally elevated at a consistory Nov. 24. The nominations help even out the geographic distribution of cardinals, which had tilted heavily toward Europe in general in the last few consistories and Italy in particular.
With the new cardinals, there will be 120 cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Europe still has the most, with 62. But with the new additions, the College of Cardinals is a tad more multinational: Latin America will have 21, North America 14, Africa 11, Asia 11 and Oceana one.
Aside from Harvey, the new cardinals are: Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, Ruben Salazar Gomez; Archbishop of Manila, Philippines, Luis Antonio Tagle; Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.
Harvey, a native of Milwaukee, became prefect of the papal household in 1998 after serving for less than a year as a top administrator, the assessor, in the Vatican's secretariat of state. His office organizes the pope's schedule, and one of his most visible duties was to escort visiting dignitaries through the Apostolic Palace to the pope's library.
Gabriele, 46, worked as an usher in the Vatican's secretariat of state before coming to work for Harvey. In 2006, Gabriele was named Benedict's butler, replacing Pope John Paul II's longtime butler, Angelo Gugel.
In announcing the new cardinals, Benedict said he was naming Harvey, 63, archpriest of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, one of the Vatican's basilicas in southern Rome.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi denied any connection between the leaks scandal and Harvey's new posting, saying it was "more than normal" that after 14 years as prefect, Harvey would be named a cardinal. That said, Harvey's predecessor, Cardinal Dino Monduzzi, retired as prefect after reaching 75 and was named a cardinal.
Harvey, 63, is well shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.
The timing of the move is also remarkable. Just Tuesday, the Vatican tribunal that convicted Gabriele issued its written explanations for reaching its verdict, saying the theft caused "reprehensible" damage to the pontiff, the Holy See and the entire Catholic Church.
The Vatican has taken such actions in the past. Last week, Benedict transferred to the United States the No. 2 official in the Vatican's office for religious orders, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who had spoken out in support of American nuns in the wake of a Vatican crackdown.
Last year, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the then-No. 2 administrator of the Vatican City State, begged the pope not to be transferred after exposing corruption that cost the Vatican millions of dollars. He was named the pope's envoy to Washington soon thereafter.
Lombardi said he "never would have imagined" that a face-saving promotion was behind Harvey's move to St. Paul's Outside the Walls.