VATICAN CITY— Pope Benedict XVI created 22 new cardinals on Saturday, including Timothy M. Dolan of New York, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica at which the pope continued his trend of turning to Italians and Vatican officials to lead an increasingly global church.
Benedict received the cardinals-designate from his throne under a soaring dome designed by Michelangelo, as one by one they knelt before the 84-year-old pope and received the red silk square-ridged hats, called birettas, that signify princes of the church.
With Saturday’s ceremony, there are now 125 cardinals under the age of 80, and thus eligible to vote for the next pope. More than half of the cardinal-electors are now Italians and Europeans, strengthening the Western voice at the church’s highest levels even as the rank and file grows most rapidly in the global south.
Only three of the new cardinals hailed from the developing world: Brazil, India and Hong Kong.
One reason for the shift toward European cardinals may be that Pope Benedict, a native of Germany who worked for much of his career at the Vatican, has been highly concerned about, and focused on, the decline of Roman Catholicism in Europe, according to the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
Father Reese said the high number of Italian cardinals might also reflect the influence of high-ranking Italians in Benedict’s administration, including the Vatican’s powerful secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
“There have already been two non-Italian popes in a row, and they may not want there to be a third,” Father Reese said.
According to an analysis by Father Reese, the percentage of Italians in the College of Cardinals has risen to 24 percent, from 16 percent, during Pope Benedict’s tenure.
And cardinals who work at the Vatican — as opposed to in dioceses around the world — now make up about one-third of the College of Cardinals, up from less than a quarter.
Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican expert at the Italian newspaper La Stampa, said he believed that Saturday’s group of new cardinals was particularly Italian because there were a number of Vatican officials who had recently been appointed to jobs that were traditionally headed by cardinals. Mr. Tornielli predicted that, in the next consistory, Pope Benedict would name more non-Europeans.
“I don’t think it’s a strategy,” he said. However, he added: “It’s a problem. We need a more international point of view.”
Pope Paul VI, who headed the church from 1963 to 1978, had made a commitment to bring in more cardinals from the third world, and Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005, had named more Eastern European cardinals. The appointments by both popes led to a reduction in the percentage of Italians in the College of Cardinals, which Italians had long dominated; even after Saturday’s appointments, the College of Cardinals remains significantly more diverse than it had been before the Second Vatican Council.
Cardinal Dolan, well known at the Vatican because he spent years running an American seminary in Rome, said the emphasis on the countries from which cardinals came was misplaced.
“On the surface, this is giving some people pause, to say wait a minute, what about that beautiful noble ideal of the Second Vatican Council to internationalize the leadership of the church,” Cardinal Dolan said. “I would say that, in this pope’s mind, an openness to the universality of the church and a celebration of the diversity of the church does not depend upon one’s passport.”
More important, Cardinal Dolan said, are the strengths of the men tapped to lead the church.
“It’s sort of like a quality you have,” he said. “He would be convinced that even though, nationality-wise, there are a good number of Italians here, these would be men that he’s chosen because they have a particular sensitivity to the pastoral needs of the wider church.”
Cardinal Dolan, a 62-year-old Missouri native who has led the archdiocese of New York since 2009, was one of two Americans elevated to cardinal at the consistory; the other was Edwin F. O’Brien, 73, who was born in the Bronx, served as archbishop of Baltimore and now heads the church’s Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Cardinal Dolan previously served as auxiliary bishop of St. Louis and as archbishop of Milwaukee. In addition to serving as archbishop of New York, he is the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ten of the new cardinals consecrated on Saturday work at the Vatican in leadership positions. Among the new cardinals were Thomas Christopher Collins, the archbishop of Toronto; George Alencherry, the archbishop of the Syro-Malabar community in India; John Tong Hon, the bishop of Hong Kong; and João Braz de Aviz, a Brazilian archbishop who leads an office at the Vatican.
Cardinal Alencherry, in an interview, expressed optimism that the College of Cardinals would, over time, more fully reflect the global nature of Catholicism.
“Turn by turn it will come,” he said. “This time if there are less, next time there will be more. It has already moved in that direction, and it is continuing.” He added, “The Holy Father is mindful of this.”
The consistory came at a challenging time for the Vatican; for the past several weeks, Rome has been mired in headlines stemming from leaks of confidential documents and accusations of financial corruption among elements of the church leadership.
But the sight of thousands of pilgrims, dignitaries and clergy gathered for one of the church’s most significant occasions provided a unified counterpoint to the intrigue.
Cardinal Dolan drew particular attention, in part because of his status as the archbishop of New York, in part because he delivered a well-received address on evangelization to the College of Cardinals on Friday, and in part because of his exuberant personality.
As most of the others chatted among themselves, Cardinal-designate Dolan walked back through the crowd before the ceremony, greeting friends and guests who showered him with camera flashes and applause.
And while the others walked solemnly with folded hands up the 10 steps to the altar, he lifted the hem of his scarlet robes with one hand and bounded up to receive his hat and ring, as well as a scroll marked with the name of his titular church in Rome, Our Lady of Guadalupe at Monte Mario.
Cardinal Dolan also has a particularly large entourage — his every move in Rome has been followed by a trail of New York news media crews, and he has been joined in Rome by close to 1,000 well-wishers, among them relatives, friends, and Catholics from New York and the other dioceses in which he had served.
Cardinal Dolan speaks frequently of the importance of demonstrating joy and happiness as a form of evangelization, and that posture was evident on Saturday.
“You just got to be yourself, right?” Cardinal Dolan said of the tone he struck. “Why put on airs? Why try to be somebody different if, as the Italians say, you make gnocchi with the dough you got?”
Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting.