Lebanon's Bechara Boutros Rai (L), wearing his hat, is congratulated after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as a cardinal.

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Story highlights

Six non-European cardinals are appointed in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica

American Archbishop James M. Harvey is among those elevated

The cardinals' main role is to advise the pope and pick his successor

"A variety of faces" in the College of Cardinals represents an inclusive church, pope says

Rome CNN  — 

Pope Benedict XVI appointed six new cardinals in a special ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, all of them from countries outside Europe.

One of those elevated to the College of Cardinals was American Archbishop James M. Harvey, who currently serves as prefect of the papal household, according to Vatican Radio.

The others were Bechara Boutros Rai, a Maronite patriarch from Lebanon; Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, an Indian archbishop and head of the Syro-Malankara Church; Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria; Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia; and Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines.

During the ceremony each received the traditional red hat, or “biretta,” gold ring and a document with the name of the cardinal’s titular church in Rome.

The red of the cardinals’ hats is viewed as symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice they would make if required, that is, shedding their blood for their faith.

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The pontiff’s address focused on the diversity of the church and how it belongs to all the world’s peoples, according to Vatican Radio.

“What makes the Church Catholic is the fact that Christ in his saving mission embraces all humanity,” he is quoted as saying.

“Situated within the context and the perspective of the Church’s unity and universality is the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church.”

The College of Cardinals was established in 1150. Its main role is to advise the pope and pick his successor.

The new cardinals are all reportedly younger than 80, meaning they could play a role in picking the next pope.

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 pope appointed another 22 cardinals in February. Of those, a majority were European, with a handful from further afield.

They included New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien and Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, as well as the Bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong Hon, and Major Archbishop George Alencherry from India.

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CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.