-- His first thought during the ceremony, the archbishop of Washington told reporters later, was not to trip on the way up to present himself to the pope. That worry was soon replaced, he said, by the more somber hope that "God will use this moment to make me better to do his work."
Under a bright morning sky in St. Peter's Square, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and 43 other Roman Catholic archbishops, bishops and priests received scarlet hats from Pope John Paul II in a ceremony that created a record number of members of the College of Cardinals.
McCarrick, 70, who acknowledged that he exchanged his preferred black socks for the regulation red just minutes before the ceremony, won exuberant cheers when John Paul handed him the skull cap and biretta, the hat of a cardinal. So did McCarrick's two U.S. colleagues, New York Archbishop Edward M. Egan and the Rev. Avery Dulles, formerly of Catholic University and one of the foremost theologians in the United States.
Today's consistory, as the ceremony is known, is John Paul's eighth in his 22-year papacy. The College of Cardinals now has 135 voting members, breaking the ceiling of 120 voting members established by Pope Paul VI, and the body is mostly made up of John Paul's appointees.
About 700 well-wishers traveled from New York, where McCarrick grew up and began his ministry; from New Jersey, where he served as archbishop of Newark; and from his new home of Washington, D.C., where he was tapped by the pope to become a cardinal only 18 days after becoming archbishop.
As the elite of the billion-member Roman Catholic Church, cardinals wear scarlet vestments to symbolize a willingness to shed blood for the church.
In a homily, the pope said that the scarlet represents the "passionate love for Christ" and asked, "Is that intense red indicative of the ardent fire of love for the Church that must nourish in you the readiness, if necessary, even to the supreme testimony of blood?"
The Washington archdiocese traditionally is led by a cardinal. McCarrick's predecessor as archbishop of Washington, James A. Hickey, 81, remains a cardinal.
Cardinals are called upon by the pope for advice on any number of matters, and those younger than 80 vote to elect a successor when a pope dies.
"I'm not planning to vote for a pope," McCarrick told reporters. "I've got nine years before I turn 80, and I'm sure the Holy Father is going to be there. He's frail, but he's got a strong will and a healthy mind."
He also said the red garb hadn't changed him: "I'm the same person I was yesterday."
Dulles, 82, son of John Foster Dulles, the late secretary of state under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, said that being chosen a cardinal was "a humbling experience." He acknowledged with a smile that his biretta had twice slipped off as he bent to kiss John Paul on both cheeks. Dulles, thin and supporting himself with a cane, was the last of the long line of new cardinals to be called.
Dulles was asked later about differences between conservative and more reform-minded cardinals, a split that could have an influence on a future conclave.
"Polarization in the church is scandalous. We should learn from one another," he said, suggesting that his approach to theology is to examine opposing views and take the best from each.
The new cardinals will receive their rings from the pope in a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica Thursday.
McCarrick and the other new cardinals will say Mass on Sunday to "take possession" of their titular church, a church in Rome assigned to each cardinal by the pope. McCarrick's, the Church of Sts. Nereo and Achilleo, is being restored, so he will say Mass at another church. Egan was assigned to the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, the ancient basilica on Rome's Coelian Hill that traditionally goes to the New York archbishop.
Dulles, who was a Presbyterian and an agnostic before he converted and became a Jesuit priest in 1956, will be deacon of the Sainted Names of Jesus and Mary Church in central Rome.
Joining the McCarrick cheering squad that traveled to Rome were about 80 members of his extended family; mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark, who said she has been a friend of McCarrick's for 15 years; and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who predicted that McCarrick will carry on the "strong focus on workers and social issues" of his predecessor, Hickey.
One other new cardinal is a U.S. citizen, Lubomyr Husar, the archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine. He was among three new cardinals who come from the former Soviet bloc.
The group of 44 new cardinals represents 27 nations and five continents, a sign of John Paul's efforts to evangelize in all parts of the world, especially in developing countries.
Europe is still the most represented continent, with 96 cardinals, but 30 of those are older than 80. North America has 18 cardinals, Latin America 33, Africa 16, Asia 17 and Oceania 4.