Pope Francis said he would elevate 14 churchmen from five continents to the rank of cardinal, picking candidates that work with the poor or where Catholics are in a minority and putting his stamp on the group that will elect his successor.
Making the surprise announcement during his weekly Sunday address, the pope said the new cardinals came from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, Madagascar, Peru, Mexico and Bolivia.
They will be given their traditional red hats at a ceremony known as a consistory on June 29.
Eleven of the group are under 80, the age limit for entering the secret conclave that will be called to elect a new pope once Francis dies or retires.
These new appointments will bring the number of so-called elector cardinals to 125, five more than the limit of 120 established by Pope Paul VI for a conclave. Francis will have named almost half of the group since becoming pontiff in 2013.
If a conclave has to be called before any other cardinal turns 80, the electors would have to draw lots to see which five men would be barred from the gathering.
It will be Francis’s fifth consistory and he has used each occasion to show support for the Church where Catholics are in a tiny minority, in this case Iraq, Pakistan and Japan.
Christians in both Iraq and Pakistan have faced death and discrimination in recent years, something Francis has repeatedly railed against, and by elevating prelates from those two nations he is sending a strong message of support to local churches.
Underscoring his focus on the poor, Francis promoted Poland’s Konrad Krajewski, who is the head of the Vatican alms office that has overseen numerous efforts to help the homeless in Rome, including setting up showers near St. Peter’s Basilica.
Two other senior Vatican officials were also moved into the top ranks of the Church – Spanish Bishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, who is the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department, and Italian Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the deputy secretary of state.
Italians have traditionally provided the Church with the majority of its cardinals, but Francis has tended to look further afield for his top prelates, passing Italy over altogether in his consistory a year ago.
On Sunday, he put three on his list, but, in what is becoming something of a hallmark, he ignored some prelates based in major cities which traditionally have cardinals, like Turin and Venice, turning instead to smaller hubs – in this case the central city of L’Aquila.
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