(CNN) — Pope Francis created 19 new Cardinals Saturday in a ceremony in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica — the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff last March.
The new cardinals come from countries around the world, hailing from as far afield as Brazil, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, South Korea and Haiti.
The pope presented them with the traditional biretta, or red cap, and ring at a formal ceremony called a public consistory.
The scarlet color of the cap symbolizes the cardinals’ willingness to die for their faith.
Looking frail, Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, lined up with the existing cardinals for the ceremony in the historic church.
When last year he became the first pope in almost six centuries to stand down, Benedict said he would live a life of seclusion and study.
His presence in St. Peter’s Basilica alongside that of Francis and the cardinals who will one day vote for his successor is a highly unusual event.
Sixteen of the new cardinals are under the age of 80, making them eligible to elect a new pope when the time comes, according to Vatican Radio.
Three of them are over age 80 and “are chosen for their distinguished service” to the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church, it said.
One of those is 98-year-old Archbishop Loris Capovilla, who was the secretary of Pope John XXIII. He was not present for the ceremony, but will be presented with his biretta in the coming days.
Two of the newly appointed cardinals already hold top Vatican positions — Archbishop Pietro Parolin is its secretary of state, while Archbishop Gerhard Mueller is head of the church’s chief doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
No Americans were named among the new members of the college of cardinals, but there is one Canadian, Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix.
Francis: Not a promotion
In a letter sent last month to the chosen clergy, Francis gave some words of advice about remaining humble.
Becoming a cardinal “does not signify a promotion, an honor nor a decoration: it is simply a service that demands a broader vision and a bigger heart,” he said.
“And, although it seems a paradox, this ability to look further and love more universally with greater intensity can be acquired only by following the way of the Lord: The way of lowliness and of humility, taking the form of a servant.”
Commenting last month on the clergy named by Francis, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi highlighted the geographical range and diversity of the countries they come from.
“The choice of cardinals of Burkina Faso and Haiti shows concern for people struck by poverty,” he is quoted as saying by Vatican Radio.
By Laura Smith-Spark