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Pope names 21 new cardinals as he points way to his successor

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Members of the public listen to Pope Francis’s Regina Coeli noon prayer in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Members of the public listen to Pope Francis’s Regina Coeli noon prayer in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Members of the public listen to Pope Francis’s Regina Coeli noon prayer in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP

Pope Francis has named 21 new cardinals, most of them from continents other than Europe, in the process putting his stamp on the Roman Catholic Church's future.

These are also the men likely to decide who will be Francis’ successor.

Sixteen of those who will receive the prestigious red cardinal’s hat from Francis in a consistory ceremony at the Vatican on August 27 are younger than 80.  

They would thus  be eligible to vote for his successor if a conclave – in which pontiffs are secretly elected – were to be held.

Francis read out the names of his choices yesterday after delivering traditional Sunday remarks from an open window of the Apostolic Palace to the public in St Peter’s Square.

Among those tapped by the pontiff  will be two prelates from India and one each from Ghana, Nigeria, Singapore, East Timor, Paraguay, and Brazil, in keeping with Francis’ determination to have church leaders reflect the global face of the  church.

With church growth largely stagnant or at best sluggish in much of Europe and North America, the Vatican has been attentive to its flock in developing countries, including in Africa, where the number of faithful has been growing in recent decades.

Only one new cardinal was named from the United States: Robert Walter McElroy, bishop of San Diego, California.

This is the eighth batch of cardinals that Francis has named since becoming pontiff in 2013.

A sizeable majority of those who are eligible to vote in a conclave were appointed by him, increasing the likelihood they will choose as his successor someone who shares his papacy’s priorities, including attention to those living on society’s margins and to environmental crises.

A total of 131 cardinals would be young enough to elect a pope once the new batch is  included, while the number of cardinals too old to vote will rise to 96.

Pontiffs traditionally have chosen their closest advisers and collaborators at the Vatican from among the ranks of cardinals, who have been dubbed the “princes of the church”.

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