Pope puts his stamp on Catholic Church’s future with 22 new cardinals
Pope Benedict, putting his mark on his Church’s future, on Saturday inducted 22 men into the exclusive group of cardinals who will one day elect one of their own to succeed him as leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.
Among the most prominent in the group is New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is already being touted by some Vatican experts as a possible future candidate to become the first American pope. Benedict, who turns 85 in April and is showing signs of his age, elevated the men to the highest Church rank below him at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica known as a consistory.
“Cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary (in defense of the faith),” the pope told the new cardinals before giving them their rings and red birettas, or hats.
The new cardinals are from the United States, Hong Kong, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, India, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Romania, Belgium, and Malta. Eighteen of them are aged under 80 and thus will be eligible to enter a secret conclave to elect the next pope from among their own ranks. Twelve of those are Europeans, bringing the number of “cardinal electors” from the continent to 67 out of 125.
With the new appointments, Benedict, who was elected in a secret conclave in 2005, has now named more than half the cardinal electors. The others were named by his predecessor John Paul. Compared to the 67 “cardinal electors” from Europe, Latin America now has 22, North America has 15, Africa has 11, Asia has nine and Oceania has one.