Pope Francis appointed 19 new cardinals from all over the world, including some of the poorest countries such as Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
The new cardinals, known as princes of the church, were installed during a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica today in Vatican City after receiving their traditional red hats.
Pope Francis’s predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, also attended the event. Pope Francis prayed for “peace and reconciliation for peoples currently experiencing violence and war” around the world.
The new group includes 16 prelates eligible to vote for the next pope and three cardinals emeriti, over the age of 80, who are being recognized for their service to the church.
Loris Francesco Capovilla, who at 98 is the oldest to be appointed, didn’t didn’t attend the ceremony for health reasons, a spokesman for the Vatican said by phone. He is a former personal secretary to Pope John XXIII.
The youngest cardinal in the group is Chibly Langlois, 55, from Haiti, the island that suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010 and deaths and destruction from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The 77-year-old head of the church has put the world’s destitute high on his agenda since becoming leader of the world’s Roman Catholics in March 2013. From visiting poor migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa to washing the feet of prison inmates, Francis has stressed the need for church hierarchy to be closer to people on the margins of society.
Other cardinals appointed today include Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin; Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster in the U.K.; and Mario Aurelio Poli, the archbishop of Francis’s hometown of Buenos Aires.