Pope Francis creates 20 new cardinals
16 appointments eligible for conclave to elect next Catholic Church leader
Published: Aug 28, 2022 09:00 PM
Pope Francis on Saturday created 20 new cardinals picked from the four corners of the world, most of whom could one day end up choosing his successor.

Francis has raised the possibility of retiring due to his declining health, a path taken by his predecessor Benedict XVI. If he were to do so, a conclave involving all cardinals aged ­under 80 would be called to pick a successor. Sixteen of the 20 cardinals created on Saturday would be eligible for that conclave based on their ages.

The ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica was the 85-year-old pope's eighth since being elected in 2013 and included clergy known for their pastoral work and, in some cases, progressive views.

All parts of the globe were represented in his selection, including new cardinals from Brazil and Nigeria, Singapore and East Timor, among others.

They each knelt before the pontiff, who presented them with the red square cap and ring typical of their new station.

"A cardinal loves the Church... by dealing with the big issues as well as the small ones, by meeting the great people of this world as well as the smallest, who are great before God," said the pope, who arrived in a wheelchair but seemed in good shape.

All new cardinals attended the ceremony, except for Ghana's Richard Kuuia Baawobr who had to be hospitalized over a cardiac issue.

After the weekend, Francis will have chosen 83 out of the 132 cardinals currently qualified to elect a new pope. 

That is nearly two-thirds of the total and precisely the percentage needed for any proposed name to pass.

In recent months, the pope has been forced to rely on a wheelchair due to knee pain, which he has said is inoperable.

He also suffers from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes pain in his hip.  

The new cardinals are always scrutinized by Vatican observers for clues as to the future direction of the Church and its 1.3 billion faithful. 

The Argentine pontiff has in 2022 completed a major shake-up of the Vatican's powerful governing body, the Roman ­Curia, which makes winning new converts a priority.

In keeping with his focus on making the Church more inclusive, transparent and responsive to the needs of the poor and marginalized, Francis has chosen two Africans and five Asians, including two cardinals who hail from India. 

Vatican expert Bernard Lecomte told AFP the pope's choices are "representative of the Church today, with a large spot for the southern hemisphere," where 80 percent of the world's Catholics live.