VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI responded to criticism that the club of churchmen who will choose his successor is too Eurocentric, elevating six new cardinals from Colombia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines and the U.S. — Archbishop James Harvey — during a formal ceremony Saturday.
Benedict welcomed the prelates into the College of Cardinals during a short, hourlong ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica, telling them that their presence among the other red-robed prelates was a sign of the "unique, universal and all-inclusive identity" of the Catholic Church.
"In this consistory, 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," he told the crowd.
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.
The College of Cardinals remains heavily European even with the new additions: Of the 120 cardinals under age 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Critics have complained that the "princes of the church" no longer represent the Catholic Church today, since Catholicism is growing in Asia and Africa but is in crisis in much of Europe.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 within their ranks. Will the next pontiff hail 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, following a Polish and German pope?
While there's no rule that papal ballots are cast along geographic lines, the new cardinals do give an eventual conclave a slightly more multinational air: 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.