Pope expands the ranks of cardinals

POPE Francis is expanding the ranks of cardinals who will elect his successor to include pastors like him who minister to the poor and come from far-flung, often overlooked dioceses.

FRANCIS was formally elevating the 20 new cardinals at a ceremony on Saturday in St Peter's Basilica. Retired Pope Benedict XVI was on hand in a unique blending of Popes past, present and future.

This is Francis' second consistory creating new cardinals and once again he looked to the "peripheries" of the church to give greater geographic representation to the Europe-centric College of Cardinals. His choices, though, also reflect his vision for what the church should be: One that looks out for the poor and most marginalised, guided by shepherds who have what he has called the "smell" of their sheep. They include Cardinal-elect Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga. Another is Cardinal Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Sicily, whose church - which extends to the island of Lampedusa - has coped with the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants over the years. And the archbishop of David, Panama, Cardinal-designate Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, who works with indigenous peoples to protect them from mining interests. While cardinals are called on to advise the Pope, their primary job is to elect a new one. Only those under age 80 can participate in a conclave. In addition to naming 15 voting-age cardinals, Francis also made five elderly churchmen cardinals to honour their service to the church. One of them, Colombian Cardinal-elect Jos de Jess Pimiento Rodriguez, wasn't able to make the trip to Rome for the ceremony: He turns 96 next week.