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News updated at 11:06 AM IST

Indian in Vatican team to choose next Pope

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2012, (AP) : 2:04 IST
India's Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal receives his hat as Pope Benedict XVI (L) appoints him as a cardinal during a ceremony on November 24, 2012 at St Peter's basilica at the Vatican. Six non-European prelates are set to join the Catholic Church's College of Cardinals, a move welcomed by critics concerned that the body which will elect the future pope is too Eurocentric. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO
Six new cardinals, including an Indian, today joined the elite club of red-robed churchmen who will elect the next pope, bringing a more geographically diverse mix into the European-dominated College of Cardinals.

Pope Benedict XVI presided over the ceremony in St Peter's Basilica to formally elevate the six men, who hail from Colombia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United States.

As Benedict read each name aloud in Latin, cheers and applause erupted from their friends and family members in the pews.

The ceremony was both joyful and emotional: Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, seen by many to be a rising star in the church, visibly choked up as he knelt before Benedict to receive his three-pointed red hat, or biretta, and gold ring, and wiped tears from his eyes as he returned to his place.

Abuja, Nigeria Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, meanwhile, seemed to want to sit down and chat with each one of the dozens of cardinals that he greeted in the traditional exchange of peace that follows the formal elevation rite.

Benedict has said that with this "little consistory," he was essentially completing his last cardinal-making ceremony held in February, when he elevated 22 cardinals, the vast majority of them European archbishops and Vatican bureaucrats.

Benedict said today that the new cardinals represent the "unique, universal and all-inclusive identity" of the Catholic Church.

"In this consistory, 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," he told the crowd, which included Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, the vice president of the Philippines Jejomar Binay and lawmakers from India and Nigeria.

Aside from Harvey, Tagle, and Onaiyekan, the new cardinals are: Bogota, Colombia Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez; the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.

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