Pope Francis to create 14 new cardinals in June

Pope Francis announced on Sunday he has chosen 14 men to be the newest cardinals in the church, among them his chief aide for helping Rome's homeless and poor, as well as prelates based in Iraq and Pakistan, where Christians are a vulnerable minority.

"I am happy to announce that on June 29, I will hold a consistory (ceremony) to make 14 new cardinals," Francis said, in remarks to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square.

"The countries of provenance express the universality of the church, which continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men on Earth," Francis added. Then he revealed his picks to be the latest "princes of the church," including from Africa, elsewhere in Asia, and South America, as he continues to make the College of Cardinals less European than it had been in centuries past.

Among the new cardinals is Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans. Also to be made cardinal is Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan.

Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he recites the Regina Coeli prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican.

Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he recites the Regina Coeli prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican. (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Francis has repeatedly highlighted the plight of Christians persecuted and even slain for their faith in areas where Islamic fundamentalists have targeted them.

Two top Vatican officials will also receive the honor of joining churchmen who vote for new popes in secret conclaves. They are Spanish Monsignor Luis Ladaria, who heads the Holy See's powerful office in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy, and, like the pope, is a Jesuit; and Italian Monsignor Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the No. 2 in the influential secretariat of state office. Becciu is also special delegate to the recently troubled Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Another Italian to be made cardinal is a Rome vicar general, Monsignor Angelo De Donatis. The pope, while leader of the entire Roman Catholic church, also serves as Rome's top bishop.

Francis' choice of Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, a good-natured Pole who personally has handed out sleeping bags to homeless on frigid Roman nights and driven poor people to seaside day trips paid for by the Vatican, reflects the pontiff's determination to make the Catholic Church known for its attention to those on life's margins.

Others tapped to be cardinals include: Monsignor Antonio dos Santos Marto, bishop of Fatima, Portugal; Monsignor Pedro Barreto, archbishop of Huancayo, Peru; Monsignor Desire Tsarahazana, archbishop of Toamasina, Madagascar; Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Manyo, archbishop of Osaka, Japan; and Monsignor Giuseppe Petrocchi, archbishop of L'Aquila, the Italian mountain town still struggling to recover from an earthquake in 2009.

Francis cited three other churchmen he said he chose because "they have distinguished themselves for their service to the church."

They are Emeritus Archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, Sergio Obeso Rivera; Monsignor Toribio Ticona Porco, a prelate from Corocoro, Bolivia; and a Spanish priest, Aquilino Bocos Merino. The three are all over 80, so will not be eligible to vote for the next pope.