Pope Appoints Onaiyekan, Five Other non-European Cardinals

24 Nov 2012

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John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan (M) with other newly appointed Cardinals at the ceremony

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Nigeria's John Onaiyekan and five other priests from non-European countries to be cardinals, at a service in the Vatican's St Peter's Basilica.

Present at the ceremony to watch Onaiyekan, who is the archbishop of Abuja, be elevated to a cardinal was a strong federal government delegation, led by Senate President David Mark.

The cardinals, the closest aides of the Pope, come from the Philippines, India, Lebanon, Colombia and the US.

Analysts say it is unusual for the Pope to select only non-Europeans.

The Pope told the congregation that the Catholic Church belongs to the whole human race, not just one group, and was a church for all peoples.

Those being presented at the consistory, or cardinal-making ceremony, were:

* US Archbishop James Harvey, 63, prefect of the papal household

* Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72

*Indian Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

*Nigerian Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, 68

*Colombian Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, 70

*Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, 55

All six new cardinals are younger than 80 and therefore will likely be eligible to vote for a new Pope when the current pontiff dies.

Three are from countries with large Muslim populations - India, Lebanon and Nigeria.

Cheers broke out among the supporters of each cardinal-designate as the Pope presented them with the gold rings at the consistory and the red hats and vestments, which symbolise their readiness to shed their blood to defend their Christian faith.

Pope Benedict has previously faced criticism for appointing mainly Europeans as cardinals, despite the Church's estimate that less than a quarter of the world's Catholics live in Europe.

The appointments aim to better reflect the international character of the Church
In February, he created 22 new cardinals including 16 Europeans, seven of whom were Italian.

By adding six non-Europeans to the number of 114 cardinal electors, the Pope has slightly shifted the geographical demographic of the body which will ultimately choose his successor, though Europeans still make up the majority, at 51%.

Tags: CARDINALS, Featured, News, Onaiyekan, POPE, Nigeria

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