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British Catholic Archbishop to become Cardinal

Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald has been the Vatican's expert on Islam, the papal nuncio - the Pope's diplomat - in Egypt and headed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from 2002 to 2006.

The 82 year old was born in Walsall in the West Midlands and is now based at the Church of St Vincent de Paul in Liverpool.

Archbishop Michael told Premier: "It was a surprise, particularly the timing, I thought this would not happen now. I could have been made a Cardinal a long time before because I headed an office in the Vatican, but then I was not appointed and so I thought that this was over."

He described the moment he was told he would be made Cardinal: "I was in Liverpool in my community, I had been preaching in the morning in an Anglican Church and returned home slightly after one o'clock and the other members of my community embraced me and I didn't know why and then they told me that I had been appointed a Cardinal.

Cardinals over 80 cannot vote in the conclave, the group that elects the next Pope, something he said he wasn't disappointed about: "I think that's a very good thing and of course it would be a privilege to be able to vote for the next Pope, whenever that is, but as one of the Cardinals you can also influence without being in the conclave, you can have some influence by talking to other people before the conclave starts and giving your own ideas on what the Church needs. So no, I can't be disappointed about that."

When asked what challenges he might face in the new role, he replied: "Well, the challenge of I'm not young! So, of increasing old age and how to deal with that and thank God I'm in good health at the moment and I hope that this will continue but you have to be ready for anything.

"Another challenge is that being a Cardinal brings a certain formality, maybe, and this may hinder. People may make themselves more cautious in dealing with me. I don't know. I have to find out."


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