Six non-European Roman Catholic prelates will join the Vatican's College of Cardinals in November, Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday, in a move which may affect the election of the future pope, reports AFP on Yahoo7.
Pope Benedict said he would be appointing cardinals from the United States, Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Colombia and the Philippines in a surprise consistory, the second to be held this year, on November 24.
The new cardinals will be the American James Michael Harvey, Lebanon's Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, India's Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Nigeria's John Onaiyekan, Colombia's Ruben Salazar Gomez and Filipino Luis Antonio Tagle.
The college, the elite body that advises the pontiff and elects his successor upon his death, is currently heavily weighted in favour of Europe.
Vatican watchers had not expected there to be another consistory until next year and the surprise announcement sparked concern that the 85-year-old pontiff's health may be worse than thought.
The consistory follows the death of several cardinals in recent months and will bring the number of those eligible to vote back up to the maximum of 120.
Cardinals must be under 80 years old to take part in a papal election.
James Harvey, 63, prefect of the papal household since 1998, was the direct supervisor of the pope's disgraced former butler Paolo Gabriele, who was sentenced this month to 18 months in prison for stealing secret Vatican memos.
FULL COVERAGE Pope's surprise appointment of six new cardinals (Yahoo7)
Pope names six new cardinals (NCR)