VATICAN CITY — The Vatican was abuzz with speculation Friday that Pope John Paul II is about to name new cardinals, filling up the worldwide group that will eventually elect his successor.
Some Italian media suggested an announcement of the names by the pope himself could come as early as Sunday, after his traditional noon blessing from his apartment window above St. Peter's Square. The installation ceremony, called a consistory, would then take place about Oct. 22.
The College of Cardinals is already mainly made up of like-minded conservatives reflecting John Paul's choices during his 25-year-papacy. A new batch will further strengthen the ailing pope's influence on the choice of his successor.
At present, the college includes 109 men under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. That is 11 below the limit of 120. Of the eligible voters, all but five were named by John Paul.
The pope can waive the 120 limit and add more voting-age cardinals, and in fact has done so before.
It is no secret that John Paul was planning to name new cardinals. Vatican officials have said the only question was the date.
The Vatican never confirms the date, saying the announcement is entirely up to the pontiff and that he may change his mind at the last moment.
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