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Could Bishop Sabbah ever become a Cardinal?
This article was written in February 2005, while Pope John Paul II was still alive, and the same names might not necessarily feature in a consistory under the present Pope, but it is alarming to discover that terrorism-excuser Michel Sabbah has ever been considered as a possible Cardinal.
Sabbah has been on short lists for recent consistories, on the grounds that it would be in character for John Paul II to give a "shot in the arm" to a small and struggling church by elevating their leader to the College of Cardinals, in effect a way of saying that the pope has not forgotten about them. Christians in the Holy Land find themselves squeezed by the upheaval of the intifadah, economic stagnation, and a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Christian out-migration has accelerated, with the nightmare scenario being that one day the land of Christ's birth will be almost empty of Christians. In that context, some believe, a cardinal would be powerful symbolism that there's a future for Arab Christianity, and the red hat might also give Sabbah a bit more leverage in his dealings with both the Israelis and the Palestinian National Authority.
On the other hand, some say Sabbah is a bit too uncritically identified with the Palestinian cause, in the manner of many Arab Christians who compensate for their minority status by stressing their loyalty to Arab nationalist causes, especially opposition to the Israelis. In that sense, his elevation to the College of Cardinals would inevitably be seen as a political gesture by the Holy See.
Michel Sabbah was appointed as Patriarch of Jerusalem by Pope John Paul II. Let us hope that now we have a new Pope, Sabbah's name will be dropped from the list of potential Cardinals.