VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI formally created 24 new cardinals on Saturday amid cheers in St. Peter’s Basilica, bringing a group into the elite club that will eventually elect his successor.
Speaking in Latin, Benedict read out each of the names of the new “princes of the church” at the start of the Mass, eliciting roaring applause from the pews and smiles from the cardinals themselves.
Wearing their new scarlet cassocks – to signify their willingness to shed blood for the church – the cardinals processed first into the basilica, waving to well-wishers as organ music thundered in a festive yet solemn atmosphere.
The basilica was awash in red as some 150 cardinals from around the world came to Rome for the occasion.
The 24 new cardinals include heads of Vatican congregations, archbishops of major cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, and retired prelates honored for their lifelong service to the church.
Their numbers bring the College of Cardinals to 203, 121 of whom are under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Eight of the new voting-age cardinals are Italian.
During the ceremony, the new cardinals each promised to obey the pope, reading an oath in Latin to maintain communion with the Holy See, keep secrets given to them and not divulge anything that might bring harm to the church.
After pledging the oath, each new cardinal walked up to the pontiff, who was seated on a gilded throne on the altar, to receive his red zucchetto, or skullcap, and biretta, a three-ridged hat worn over it.