Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday solemnly proclaimed 22 new cardinals, including a Spaniard and a Brazilian.
These were Spain’s Archbishop Santos y Castello, 76, vice-chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber and archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and Joao Braz de Aviz, 64, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The proclamation was made at the beginning of the consistory being held at the St. Peter’s Basilica, the fourth of Benedict XVI’s pontificate.
After reading the ritual in Latin for creating cardinals and raising them to the purple individually, the pope placed on each the ridged red silk cap known as the biretta and gave them a cardinal’s hat - both symbols of the rank of cardinal - and assigned each a church in Rome as a sign of their participation in the pastoral care of the pontiff throughout the Eternal City.
Of the 22 new cardinals, 18 are less than 80 years old, making them eligible to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a new pope. The other four are octogenarians, and according to Vatican rules they may not enter the Sistine Chapel - where the conclaves are held - to elect a pontiff, though they can be elected themselves.
Of the 18 electors, 12 are European, one is Latin American, three are North Americans and two are Asians.
Of the 12 European electors, seven are Italians, which signifies a strengthening of the Italian church, which is first in the number of cardinals with 52, of whom 30 are electors.
After Italy comes the United States with 19 cardinals, of whom 12 are electors, followed by Spain with 10 cardinals including five electors, Brazil also with 10 and six electors, and France with nine including four electors.
With the new cardinals and now with a total of 119, the European church extends its influence in the College of Cardinals with slightly more than half the members of what has been called “the most exclusive club in the world.”
Latin America continues to place second, now with 32 raised to the purple, followed by North America with 22, Asia with 20, Africa with 17 and Oceania with four.