Last week, while I was in Rome with the President of the United States Bishops’ Conference to visit the Holy Father and the Cardinals who head up some of the various departments of the Vatican, the Pope announced the names of bishops and priests who would be created Cardinals at the end of November. Among twenty three new Cardinals, two are from this country: Archbishop John Foley, from Philadelphia but working in Rome as head of the communications department for the last thirty years, and Archbishop Daniel DiNardo, of Houston, Texas. Because the Archdiocese of Houston had not previously had its chief shepherd named a Cardinal, this appointment occasioned much comment. It recognizes the growing importance of the Southwest for the country and the Church. Since the time of Cardinal George Mundelein, the third Archbishop of Chicago (1915-1939), every Archbishop here has become a Cardinal. That means the Archbishop of Chicago is not only the head of the Church of Chicago but also a member of the clergy of Rome. Like the bishop of every diocese, the Pope as Bishop of Rome has a council or college of pastors to advise him. The members of this group of papal advisors are called the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Over the centuries, the Pope began to name some bishops and priests outside of Rome to the College of Cardinals, as a way of honoring them or stressing the importance of their work. For more than a thousand years, the Cardinals, as the clergy of Rome, have been the group that elects the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Each Cardinal, whether resident in Rome or not, belongs to one or more of the offices that the Pope uses to govern the Church. In that way, they offer advice from time to time about various ministries and problems. My recent time in Rome had me visiting some of the offices of the Papal Curia that interact with bishops in the United States in some capacity. The President of the USCCB and its General Secretary and I went to the office for bishops, to the council for justice and peace, to the Holy See’s foreign office, to the council for promoting Christian unity and good relations with the Jewish community, to the offices for clergy and for religious, to the office that oversees seminaries and Catholic schools, to the offices for divine worship, for interfaith dialogue and for overseeing doctrine. We also saw the Holy Father himself, the Cardinal Secretary of State, the Archbishop who oversees the working of the Curia and the Archbishop who is responsible for the Pope’s household. Personally, I spoke as well with those in charge of Synods, of the cultural patrimony of the Church and the Cardinal from India who directs the office for the evangelization of peoples, the missionary department. I also visited the Cardinal who is the Penitentiary of the Church, the one who deals with matters of conscience submitted to the Holy Father as universal pastor. It was a busy week. The topics covered in the conversations were determined not only by our questions but by the offices’ competence. The Iraq war, for example, was discussed at both the council for justice and peace, which examines the conditions for a just society, and the foreign office, which deals with political issues. Religious dialogue was discussed at both the council for Christian unity and the office for interfaith dialogue. The offices we visited do not exhaust the various departments (or dicasteries, as they are officially called) of the Holy See, but naming those we did visit gives some idea of the scope of Papal government and of the Church’s concerns. Most offices of the Roman Curia do not have many members, which means that everyone has a good amount of work to do. The Holy Father paces himself very deliberately in order to meet his many commitments as fairly and effectively as possible. In recent years, the number of women who are part of the Roman Curia has risen to about twenty per cent. In most dioceses in this country, the number of women working in diocesan curias or pastoral centers is about fifty per cent. There is another aspect of the life of Cardinals that is never far from one’s vision and prayers in Rome. For the first three hundred years of the Church’s existence, many of the Popes and members of the Roman clergy were martyred. Their graves are in the churches and shrines and catacombs, their names in the Roman Canon of the Mass. The red of the Cardinal’s robes is to remind him that he is to witness to the faith even in the face of opposition and to the point of giving his life for it and the Church. Often the Holy Father will name as Cardinals not only those bishops in major dioceses around the world but also those in very troubled and often violent places. Martyrdom remains a fact of the Church’s life today in many parts of the world. The Pope presides in charity over all the Churches or dioceses of the world. He has a lot of help, but most of all he counts on the help of our prayers. Prayers for the Pope and his intentions are part of the actions required to receive indulgences, and the Pope is prayed for in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist. He is grateful for these prayers, which obtain God’s mercy for him and strengthen the bonds of Catholic communion throughout the world. God bless you.