Pope Benedict XVI has recognized 22 new cardinals – his closest aides – at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican.
The new “princes of the church” will be given red hats called birettas and gold rings at the “consistory”.
On Friday, cardinals new and old attended a closed-door meeting pondering how to bring back faith in increasingly secular countries.
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan said a “creative strategy” was needed.
Giving the keynote speech at the meeting, Archbishop Timothy Dolan said the Church should accentuate its positive side, and would accomplish what it terms the “new evangelization” with “a smile, not a frown”.
The popular 62-year-old archbishop – who is reportedly being followed by about a dozen US television crews – is one of those set to become a cardinal.
Others include Hong Kong Archbishop John Tong Hon and Berlin Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki.
After Saturday morning’s lavish ceremony, the Roman Catholic Church will have a total of 213 cardinals – including 125 who are under the age of 80 and could therefore take part in the conclave which will meet to elect a new pope once Pope Benedict XVI dies.
Pope Benedict XVI, who will shortly celebrate his 85th birthday, is visibly slowing down.
Media reports speak of cardinals and their supporters jockeying for prominence as the Pope’s strength declines.
Seven Italians – many of them holding influential positions inside Church government – are among the new cardinals, increasing the possibility that the next Pope could once again be an Italian.
That reflects what will be a strong European presence among the 125 “cardinal electors”, despite the fact that the regions of growth for Roman Catholic congregations are Africa and Latin America rather than Europe.
The consistory is taking place against a background of disquiet inside the Vatican.
Confidential internal memos alleging corruption among top clerics and some laymen who advise the Pope have been leaked to the media.
The Vatican spokesman said – using a colorful metaphor – that “wolves were on the prowl in the frescoed palace of the popes”.