CHICAGO: Pope Francis said on Sunday he would elevate 17 Roman Catholic prelates to the high rank of cardinal, including 13 who are under 80 years old and thus eligible to enter a conclave that will one day choose his successor.
Cardinals are the most senior members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy after the pope. Each time a pope names new cardinals he puts his stamp on the future of the 1.2-billion-member global church.
Francis, making the surprise announcement during his weekly Sunday address, said the men came from five continents and that the ceremony to elevate them, known as a consistory, would be held on Nov. 19.
It is the third time Francis has appointed new cardinals since his election in 2013 as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years.
The new cardinal-electors, those under 80, come from Italy, the Central African Republic, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Belgium, Mauritius, Mexico and Papua New Guinea.
Three are from the United States: Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop William Tobin of Indianapolis and Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, who was recently appointed to head a new Vatican department on family and life issues.
One of the four new cardinals over 80, and who will not be able to enter a conclave, is Father Ernest Simoni, 88. Simoni is an Albanian priest who spent many years in jail and forced labor during the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985.
The other three cardinal over 80 come from Malaysia, Italy and Lesotho.