Pope Benedict XVI created six new cardinals on Saturday including three from Asia.
Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, Syro-Malankar Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of India, and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of Lebanon received the red hat during a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.
Archbishop James Michael Harvey from the United States, Nigeria's John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan and Colombia's Ruben Salazar Gomez were also installed.
Benedict's second batch of cardinals for 2012, significantly, did not include anyone from Europe and just one person from the ranks of the Roman Curia.
The pontiff's previous consistory, in February, had been criticized for leaning heavily to Italian and other European churchmen in a future conclave, even as the Church continues to shrink in the old world and grows rapidly in Asia and Africa.
With these latest appointments, Pope Benedict has chosen 67 of the 120 – from of a total of 211 living cardinals – that might be called upon to elect the future pope. Pope Paul VI decreed that only cardinals under the age of 80 were eligible to vote in a conclave.
Of the 120 cardinal-electors, 62 – or slightly more than half – now come from Europe, 35 are from the Americas and 11 respectively from Asia and Africa. Just one comes from Oceania, Australia's Cardinal George Pell.
In his homily before bestowing the red hat, Benedict seemed to address these worries by stressing repeatedly the “universality” of the Catholic Church. The word “catholic” comes from the Greek term for “universal.”
“In this consistory,” he said, “I want to highlight in particular the fact that the Church is the church of all peoples, and so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents. She is the Church of Pentecost: amid the polyphony of the various voices, she raises a single harmonious song to the living God.”
The College of Cardinals is particularly representative of the Church's “unity and universality: It presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church.”
Benedict recalled that Jesus gave the apostles the mission to bear witness “all over the world, transcending the cultural and religious confines” of their time and mentality, “so as to open themselves to the universal Kingdom of God.”
In this sense, even when they spread throughout the world and founded different local churches, with different rites and traditions according to the nation where they settled, they always thought of the Church not as “community of their own” but as part of the “unique, universal and all-inclusive identity of the Catholica that is realized in every local church.”
After Benedict's homily, the new cardinals swore fidelity to him and to the Church before receiving the red hat and a ring marking their new rank. Some of them, including the now-Cardinal Tagle, were visibly moved.
Each of the new “princes of the Church,” whose red cassock marks their willingness to stay loyal to the Church “even to the point of spilling their own blood,” according to the Latin formula they recited, was also assigned patronage of a church in Rome.