NEW: Pope Benedict inducts 22 new cardinals at a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica
NEW: The pontiff announces seven new saints, including the first Native American saint
The cardinals come from around the world, including the United States, Canada and India
The College of Cardinals advises the current pope and eventually selects his successor
Pope Benedict appointed 22 new cardinals at the Vatican on Saturday, with his choices for the lofty role likely to influence who will be appointed as the next pontiff.
The Vatican named the new cardinals last month, but they were officially inducted by the pontiff in a special ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Among those to be elevated to the College of Cardinals are New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, cementing his standing as the top Catholic in the United States, and Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore.
Others include Archbishop Thomas Collins, from Toronto, as well as the Bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong Hon, and Major Archbishop George Alencherry from India
Senior clerics from Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Romania and Brazil are also represented, as well as several from Italy.
The College of Cardinals was established in 1150. Its main role is to advise the current Pope and pick his successor.
“This is the most exclusive club in the Catholic Church,” said John Allen, CNN’s Vatican analyst. “In many cases, you also become, at least informally, a candidate to be the next pope, because the next pope will almost certainly come from the roughly 120 cardinals under the age of 80.”
Once a cardinal reaches 80, he is no longer able to participate in the election of the pope or enter the secret conclave where cardinals gather when the time comes to select the next pope, typically upon the prior pope’s death.
The new cardinals each professed their faith and swore an oath of obedience to Pope Benedict and his successors during Saturday’s ceremony, called the Consistory, at the Vatican.
They then walked one by one to the pontiff and knelt in front of him to receive the traditional red hat, or “biretta,” and gold ring, and a document with the name of the cardinal’s titular church in Rome.
In his address, Benedict said that in joining the College of Cardinals, the clerics would “be united with new and stronger bonds not only to the Roman Pontiff but also to the entire community of the faithful spread throughout the world.”
Emphasizing the importance of service over self-interest, the pontiff said the red of the cardinals’ hats was symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice they would make if required.
“The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the color of their robes,” he said.
Pope Benedict also announced seven new saints, including the first Native American saint, a 17th-Century Mohawk woman called Kateri, or Catherine, Tekakwitha, who was a Catholic convert.
Existing members of the College of Cardinals and the new cardinals-elect came together for a day of prayer and reflection Friday, in preparation for the ceremony, according to the Holy See Press Office.
Dolan addressed the gathering on the subject of evangelization, saying there was a need to challenge a growing secularization of society.
CNN’s Eric Marrapodi, Livia Borghese and Hada Messia contributed to this report.