Rome Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday named 23 new Roman Catholic cardinals, beefing up the group that eventually is expected to choose his successor.
The new "princes" of the Catholic Church, as cardinals are known, come from the United States, Europe and three other continents, reflecting what the pope said was the universality of the church "and the multiplicity of its missions."
They will be formally installed and bestowed their distinctive red hats in a special ceremony known as a consistory on Nov. 24, the 80-year-old pope said.
Eighteen of the new cardinals are eligible to serve in the conclave that elects a successor after the death of a sitting pope, one of their most important roles. The other five cannot vote because they are age 80 or older.
The church's senior prelate in Iraq, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, was among the cardinals named Wednesday. His elevation was seen as a gesture of support for the beleaguered Christian community in that war-ravaged country, a key source of concern for Benedict.
Emmanuel has gained the Vatican's attention by frequently warning that the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, soon might be without Christians.
He recently denounced what he called a campaign by Muslim fanatics to eliminate the 2,000-year Christian presence in Mesopotamia, with thousands of Christians killed, kidnapped and driven into exile. Christians in Iraq today make up a tiny fraction of their 1.5-million-strong population before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
Two Americans were among the newly named cardinals younger than 80: the archbishop of Houston, Msgr. Daniel DiNardo, 58, and Archbishop John P. Foley, 71, a veteran Vatican official who until recently handled broadcast media relations for the Holy See. Foley, a Philadelphia native, is the grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a lay religious organization that works on behalf of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
Their elevations bring to 13 the number of American cardinals who are electors.
This is the second batch of cardinals named by Benedict since he assumed the papacy in 2005. With this group, the cardinal electors will number 121, one more than the limit set by Pope Paul VI. The total number of cardinals, including those 80 and older, will be 202.
Most of the new group are from Europe, reflecting Benedict's emphasis on reviving traditional Catholicism on a continent he considers awash in nonreligious secularism. Other new cardinals are from Latin America, India and Africa.