Pope Francis announced Sunday that he will hold a meeting of the 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 would 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,” Pope Francis said in an address in Saint Peter’s square.
Among the new cardinals will be Iraq’s Louis Sako who has often met Pope Francis 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 Thomas Aquinas Manyo from Osaka in Japan.
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 and was named in 2013 after his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI stood down citing the effect of advancing age on his ability to carry out the exacting duties of the office.