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Pope John Paul II Presents Rings to Cardinals, Ending Celebration of Papal Anniversary - 2003-10-22

Pope John Paul II presided over a solemn ceremony at the Vatican Wednesday, presenting rings of office to the Roman Catholic Church's 30 new Cardinals. The ceremony marked the end of a week of events to mark the pope's 25th anniversary in office.

After giving the new cardinals their scarlet hats, the pope handed each of them their rings during a mass in Saint Peter's basilica. The event closed a week of ceremonies for the 83-year-old pope.

He appeared tired but attentive. Just like in two other ceremonies in the past week, he decided not to read his homily. In what appears to have become routine, he only said a few prayers at the beginning and end of the mass, and also left most of the celebration of the mass to his aides.

The pope's words, which were read by an aide, were, "This ring is the symbol of the renewed link which closely unites you to the Church and the pope".

With his 30 new appointments, the pope has expanded the College of Cardinals to a record 194 members. The cardinals are the pope's closest advisers, and one of their major duties will be to elect his successor, probably from among themselves. Only those under the age of 80 may vote. There are currently 135 cardinals who could vote to select Pope John Paul's successor.

When he was elected 25 years ago, he was the first from outside Italy in 455 years. There is much speculation now as to who the next pope might be, particularly with so many cardinals from outside Italy. The new cardinals include prelates from Sudan, Nigeria and India.

During his reign, the pope broadened the college of cardinals geographically and increased the possibility that a future pontiff may be the first from a developing nation.