Pope Benedict, increasing the chances the next pontiff will be a conservative European, has named 22 new cardinals, the red-hatted “princes of the Church” who are his closest aides and will one day choose his successor. Eighteen of the new cardinals will be eligible to enter a secret conclave to elect the next pope from among their own ranks, and of those, 12 are Europeans, bringing the number of “cardinal electors” from the continent to 67 out of 125.
The pope is a conservative on matters of faith and sexual morals such as birth control, homosexuality and the ban on women priests. Each time he names cardinals he puts his stamp on Roman Catholicism’s future by choosing men who share his views.
Among the most prominent on the list of new cardinals published on Friday are archbishops in key spots such as Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, John Tong Hon, archbishop of Hong Kong, and Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Berlin in the pope’s native Germany. Others are from Italy, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, India, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Romania, Belgium, and Malta. They include the archbishops of Toronto, Prague, Utrecht, and Florence. The head of the Siro-Malabar Catholic rite in India will also become a cardinal.
With the new appointments, Benedict, who was elected in a secret conclave in 2005, has now named more than half the cardinal electors who will be able some day to choose a new leader of the world’s some 1.3 billion Roman Catholics. The other electors were all named by his predecessor John Paul. Compared to 67 cardinal electors for Europe, Latin America now has 22, North America has 15, Africa has 11, Asia has 9 and Oceania has one.