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Diverse cardinals show Church is global: pope

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that his surprise appointment of six non-European cardinals next month showed that the Roman Catholic Church was “not the Church of one continent.”

The College of Cardinals, the elite body that advises the head of the Roman Catholic Church and elects his successor upon his death, is currently heavily weighted in favor of Europe.

“By convening this little consistory (on Nov. 24) I wanted to complete the one held in February in the context of a new evangelism ... showing that the Church belongs to all peoples, speaks all languages,” he said.

“It is not the Church of one continent but a universal Church,” he added, rebuffing some critics who claim he was being too Eurocentric, after naming 22 new cardinals in February, 16 of whom are Europeans.

While nearly half of the world's Catholics are in Latin America, there was only one new cardinal appointed from “the Catholic continent.”

Vatican watchers had not expected there to be another consistory until next year and the surprise announcement sparked concern that the 85-year-old pope's health may be worse than thought.

The consistory follows the death of several cardinals in recent months and will bring the number of those eligible to vote back up to the maximum of 120.

Cardinals must be under 80 years old to take part in a papal election.

The German-born Benedict said on Wednesday he would be appointing cardinals from the United States, Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Colombia and the Philippines on Nov. 24.

After next month's consistory, there will be 62 European cardinals eligible to vote (compared to 67 in February), 14 North Americans, 21 South Americans, 11 Africans and 11 Asians.

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