VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Catholic Church has welcomed nearly two dozen new members to the top ranks of its hierarchy.
Pope Benedict today elevated 23 churchmen from around the world to cardinal, pronouncing each of their names to the cheers and applause of thousands in St. Peter's Basilica.
It's the second such ceremony presided over by Benedict and swells the ranks of cardinals who will eventually choose his successor.
The College of Cardinals now numbers 120. Eighteen of the new Cardinals are under 80, and thus are eligible to vote on papal succession.
Benedict presided over the ceremony wearing resplendent golden robes and a 19th century gilded miter, or bishop's hat, once worn by Pope Pius the ninth.
In proclaiming the new "princes'' of the church, Benedict said
they "must be intrepid witnesses of Christ and his Gospel in the
city of Rome and in faraway places.''