Pope Francis has created his first batch of cardinals, naming 19 men from around the world who will lead the Roman Catholic church.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, will be made a cardinal on the Feast of St Peter in Rome on February 22.
When he dons the red hat Archbishop Nichols, 68, will become one of the Pope’s closest advisors, helping to decide policies affecting the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
He is one of the 16 “cardinal electors” named today who are under 80 and so will be eligible to enter a conclave to elect the next Pope. Three more cardinals created today hold honorary positions only.
Archbishop Nichols said: “I am deeply moved by the honour conferred upon the Catholic Church in England and Wales and on the Diocese of Westminster in my appointment as Cardinal by His Holiness Pope Francis.
“The Catholic Church in our countries has always had a profound and loving loyalty to the Holy Father, the Successor of St Peter. This appointment enables me, on behalf of all, to serve the Pope in a direct and prolonged way.
“Personally, this is a humbling moment when I am asked to take a place in this service of the Holy See and in the line of much loved Cardinal Archbishops of Westminster.
“I seek the blessing of Almighty God for these new responsibilities and I ask for the prayers of all people of faith that I may fulfil them with energy and devotion.”
Francis made the announcement from the window of the Apostolic Palace to a crowd of thousands in Saint Peter’s Square.
The other cardinal electors come from Italy, Germany, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti.
The choice of archbishops from Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, along with other countries with high rates of poverty, is thought to reflect the Pope’s interest in reaching out to the developing world.
The pope has said often since his election on March 13 that he wants a church that “is poor and for the poor”.
Andrea Gagliarducci, Vatican correspondent for the Catholic News Agency, said:”Pope Francis, in creating these new cardinals, is making a College of Cardinals which is always more universal, more oriented to the peripheries of the Church, because he thinks that from the peripheries you can see the Church better.
“Pope Francis wanted to show the universality of the Church so we don’t have so many Latin American cardinals as one could expect because Pope Francis comes from Latin America, but you don’t have so many European cardinals as well.
“And you have the entrance in the College of Cardinals of countries like Burkina Faso, or like Nicaragua, which is something very important for the universality of the Church.”