VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday brought 22 Catholic churchmen into the elite club of cardinals who will elect his successor, cementing the Italian majority in a future conclave but also giving New York’s garrulous archbishop a position of prominence.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan emerged as something of the star of the consistory, delivering a highly praised speech on spreading the faith.
“He certainly is going to be given many responsibilities as a cardinal,” said the other American who got a red hat Saturday, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, the outgoing archbishop of Baltimore.
In all, 22 churchmen got their red hats Saturday, including the archbishops of Prague, Toronto, Florence, Utrecht and Hong Kong.
Seven of the 22 were Italian, adding to the eight voting-age Italian cardinals named at the last consistory in November 2010. As of Saturday, Italy will have 30 cardinals out of the 125 under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a future conclave.
That boosts Italy’s chances of taking back the papacy for one of its own following decades under a Polish and a German pope – or at least playing the kingmaker role if an Italian candidate doesn’t emerge. Only the U.S. comes close, with 12 cardinals under 80.