POPE Benedict XVI has appointed six priests from non-European countries to be cardinals, at a service in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica.
The cardinals, the closest aides of the Pope, come from the Philippines, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Colombia and the US.
Analysts say it is unusual for the Pope to select only non-Europeans.
The Pope told the congregation that the Catholic Church belongs to the whole human race, not just one group, and was a church for all peoples.
Those being presented at the consistory, or cardinal-making ceremony, were US Archbishop James Harvey, 63, prefect of the papal household; Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72; Indian Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68; Colombian; Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70; and Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55.
All six new cardinals are younger than 80 and therefore will likely be eligible to vote for a new Pope when the current pontiff dies.
Three are from countries with large Muslim populations –– India, Lebanon and Nigeria.
Cheers broke out among the supporters of each cardinal-designate as the Pope presented them with the gold rings at the consistory and the red hats and vestments, which symbolise their readiness to shed their blood to defend their Christian faith.