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Burke is made a cardinal; many St. Louisans attend ceremony

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 20, 2010 - With traditional ritual, Pope Benedict bestowed a scarlet biretta - the red hat - on new Cardinal-deacon Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis archbishop this morning.

He now is a papal adviser and papal elector. Burke was one of 24 other new cardinals -- including the only other U.S. citizen, Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl -- elevated in a two-hour ceremony called a consistory at St. Peter's Basilica. Both men now get Vatican passports so become dual nationals.

Wuerl was designated a cardinal-archbishop. indicating he is a shepherd of an archdiocese. Burke's title deacon refers to his administration role within the Vatican.

In the pope's address to the men in their brand new scarlet robes he called cardinals his "senate." For more than eight hours on Friday, the established cardinals and the 24 who entered their ranks today had a session with the pope on various concerns and missions of the Catholic Church.

As of this morning, there are 203 cardinals world wide. Only 121 of them are under 80 and able to vote should the chair of St. Peter, the papal seat, be vacated by Benedict's death.

"Cardinal Burke looks so happy, really overwhelmed that so many of his friends had come to Rome for him," said Niall Gannon, a member of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves who with his wife, Gretchen, were among the friends of Burke from St. Louis and his native La Crosse, Wisc., to attend the ceremony. Gannon spoke to the Beacon in a phone interview.

"We have been told that there are more than 500 people here for Cardinal Burke" he said. The large group went immediately after the consistory to a luncheon reception in Burke's honor at the Pontifical North American College, a seminary residence that is on a high hill directly overlooking St. Peter's Square.

Just in time to be fitted for his new scarlet wardrobe of form-fitting cassocks and other custom-made liturgical garments, Burke has dropped sizes.

"He looks wonderful. He's lost 34 pounds and looks about 25 years old, " Gannon, 42, said. Gannon headed the 2008 Archdiocesan Appeal, the St. Louis Archdiocese's major annual fundraiser.

After it topped its goal, Burke bestowed the Order of St. Louis on Gannon. The Gannons and their grade-school children visited Burke one other time since he was transferred to Rome. That time Burke welcomed them to his apartment inside the Vatican, celebrated Mass at home for the family and served them dinner. Gannon is a money manager for the Gannon Group, his wife is a fashion consultant to the Carol Anderson's Cabi fashion line. Gannon wore the Order of St. Louis Medal for the first time in public to the consistory.

At the reception Burke reached out, smiled and touched the medal.

The pope assigns each cardinal a church to celebrate Mass when in Rome. The cardinal also oversees and often fund raises for it. The pope assigned Burke Sant Agata dei Goti, a church built in 460 to honor the early martyr St. Agatha. The 5th century building was expanded in its second millennium with it grand renovations in 1729, giving it its appearance today of an Italian Baroque church.

In anticipation of his elevation to cardinal, Burke gave the pope's own Vatican Radio an interview in which he criticized other bishops for not stressing the theme for which Burke was best known from his first week he was in St. Louis -- Catholics who approve of abortion rights giving scandal by publicly talking or voting for that right.

"On the question of a person who publicly and obstinately espouses the right of a woman to choose to abort the infant in her womb receiving Holy Communion strikes me as something very clear," he told Vatican Radio. "In the 2,000 years of the Church's tradition, She's always firmly held that a person who is publicly and obstinately in grave sin should not approach to receive Holy Communion and, if she or he does, should be denied Holy Communion."

"It is discouraging that either members of the Church claim not to understand this or they claim that in some way there is an excuse for someone who is publicly and obstinately in grave sin to receive Holy Communion," Burke said.

The St. Louis pilgrims to Rome, about 130 of them, will also celebrate at two more dinners and attend a Papal Mass with the pope and new cardinals at St. Peter's on Sunday. Most then will tackle airport crowds as they return for Thanksgiving back in St. Louis.

Patricia Rice is a freelance writer who covers religion for the Beacon. 

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