VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will hold a meeting of the Roman Catholic Church’s top council to appoint 14 new cardinals next month, including from Iraq, Pakistan, Madagascar and Japan.
In the event of a conclave of cardinals to name a new pope, 11 of the new 14 being under 80 years of age will be eligible to take part.
“I am happy to announce that on June 29 there will be a consistory meeting to appoint 14 new cardinals. Their origins reflect the universality of the church,” Francis said in an address in St. Peter’s Square.
Among the new cardinals will be Louis Sako, from Iraq, who has often met the pope to discuss the situation in the war-torn country and the plight of its Christian community.
From Pakistan comes Joseph Coutts of Karachi with Desire Tsarahazana from Toamasina in Madagascar and Archbishop Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda from Osaka.
As well as having the key role of choosing a new pope, cardinals often also hold the highest administrative offices in the church.
Pope Francis, the first head of the church from Latin America, is 81. He was named in 2013 after his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, stood down citing the effects of advancing age on his ability to carry out the exacting duties of the office.