Pope Benedict XVI elevates 22 men to cardinal rank

Pope Benedict XVI elevated 22 men to the position of cardinal on Saturday in the Vatican, the New York Times reported.

"The pope bestowed a blessing on each man and gave them the red silk square-ridged hats, called birettas, that signify princes of the church," the Times said. 

The cardinals were mostly from "the Roman Curia, the Vatican government, and from Italian dioceses," the Wall Street Journal reported. Of the 125 total cardinals under the age of 80 – which is voting age when it comes time to elect a new pope – 67 are European, AFP reported. Just three came from developing countries: India, Hong Kong, and Brazil. The Catholic church is seeing its greatest expansion in the southern hemisphere.

Two Americans were consecrated, including Timothy Dolan, the former Archbishop of New York and one of the most recognizable Catholic figures in the United States.

The Associated Press reported that the Pope, 86, is seen as "increasingly weak" and the Vatican is already preparing for a conclave, which is the closed door ceremony to elect a new pope.

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