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Updated: Pope elevates six cardinals

Six new cardinals have joined the elite club of red-robed churchmen who will elect the next pope, bringing a more geographically diverse mix into the European-dominated College of Cardinals.

Pope Benedict XVI presided over the ceremony today in St Peter's Basilica to formally elevate the six men, who hail from Colombia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United States.

As Pope Benedict read each name aloud in Latin, applause and cheers erupted from the pews.

Pope Benedict has said that with this "little consistory," he was essentially completing his last cardinal-making ceremony held in February, when he elevated 22 cardinals, the vast majority of them European archbishops and Vatican bureaucrats.

Pope Benedict said today that the new cardinals represent the "unique, universal and all-inclusive identity" of the Catholic Church.

The ceremony was both joyful and emotional: Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, seen by many to be a rising star in the church, visibly choked up as he knelt before Pope Benedict to receive his three-pointed red hat, or biretta, and gold ring, and wiped tears from his eyes as he returned to his place.

The archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, meanwhile, seemed to want to sit down and chat with each one of the dozens of cardinals that he greeted in the traditional exchange of peace that follows the formal elevation rite.

"I want to highlight in particular the fact that the church is the church of all peoples, and so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents," Pope Benedict told the crowd, which included Lebanese president Michel Suleiman, the vice president of the Philippines Jejomar Binay and MPs from India and Nigeria.

The College of Cardinals remains heavily European even with the new additions: Of the 120 cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope, more than half - 62 - are European. Critics have complained that the "princes of the church" no longer represent the Catholic Church today, since Catholicism is growing in Asia and Africa but is in crisis in much of Europe.

The issue of numbers is significant since these are the men who will elect the next pope from among their ranks: Will the next pontiff come from the southern hemisphere, where two thirds of the world's Catholics live? Or will the papacy return to Italy, which has 28 voting-age cardinals, after a Polish and German pope?

The new cardinals do make the papal voting bloc a bit more multinational: Latin America, which boasts half of the world's Catholics, now has 21 voting-age cardinals; North America, 14; Africa, 11; Asia, 11; and Oceana, one.

Among the six new cardinals is archbishop James Harvey, the American prefect of the papal household. As prefect, Harvey was the direct superior of the pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, who is serving an 18 month prison sentence in a Vatican jail for stealing the pope's private papers and leaking them to a reporter in the greatest Vatican security breach in modern times.

The Vatican spokesman has denied Harvey, 63, from Milwaukee, is leaving because of the scandal. But on the day the pope announced Harvey would be made cardinal, he also said he would leave the Vatican to take up duties as the archpriest of one of the Vatican's four Roman basilicas. Such a face-saving promotion-removal is not an uncommon Vatican personnel move.

Aside from Harvey, Tagle, and Onaiyekan, the new cardinals are: Bogota, Colombia archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez; the patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon, his beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai; and the major archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, his beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.

Cardinals serve as the pope's closest advisers, but their main task is to elect a new pope. And with Pope Benedict, 85, slowing down, that task is ever more present. For the second time, the consistory ceremony was greatly trimmed back, lasting just over an hour to spare the pope the fatigue of a lengthy ceremony.

He will, however, celebrate Mass tomorrow with them.

Today's consistory marks the first time in decades that not a single European or Italian has been made a cardinal - a statistic that has not gone unnoticed in Italy. Italy still has the lions' share of cardinals, though, with 28 voting-age "princes" of the church.

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