POPE Benedict, putting his stamp on the future of the Roman Catholic Church, on Wednesday named six new cardinals from around the world to join the elite group of prelates who will one day choose his successor.
The six are from the United States, Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Colombia, and the Philippines. The ceremony, known as a consistory, will be held on November 24, the pope said in a surprise announcement at his weekly general audience.
Among those named to join the group known as the "princes" of the Catholic Church are Archbishop James Michael Harvey, an American who runs the pontifical household, Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon, and Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara rite in India.
They also included Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, and Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines.
All of the six new cardinals are under 80 years old and thus eligible under Church law to enter a conclave to elect a new pope. The elite group is known as "cardinal electors".
After the consistory, the number of cardinal electors will rise again to 120, the maximum allowed under Church law. The total number of men in the college of cardinals will be 211.
It was the fifth time since his election in 2005 that Benedict, 85, has named new cardinals.
The pope's health is generally believed go be good but he has been looking frail recently.