(Photo: Pope Benedict leads the consistory in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 20, 2010/Tony Gentile)
Pope Benedict installed 24 new Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world on Saturday in his latest batch of appointments that could include his successor as leader of the 1.2 billion member church.
Twenty of the new cardinals are under 80 and thus eligible under church rules to take part in the conclave that chooses a successor after the death or resignation of the current pope.
The new cardinals include Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., who, as a senior figure in the American capital, will likely play a leading role in the U.S. church’s response to the sexual abuse scandal.
At a pre-consistory meeting on Friday, the Vatican told bishops they would have to take more responsibility to prevent sexual abuse of children by priests and said it was preparing new guidelines for bishops on how to deal with the sexual abuse, including cooperation with local authorities.
The German pope has now named 50 of the 121 electors who can pick his successor from among their own ranks, raising the possibility that the next pontiff will be a conservative in Benedict’s own image. Popes usually reign for life but Benedict, 83, has not ruled out the possibility of resigning for health reasons. The last time a pope resigned willingly was in the 13th century.