Pope Francis creates 17 new cardinals, a move that bolsters his support within the Church hierarchy if he has chosen reform-minded churchmen like himself.
Reuters observes that naming new cardinals is one of the most significant powers of the papacy, allowing a pontiff to put his stamp on the future of the 1.2-billion-member global Church.
Since his election as leader of the Catholic Church on Mar 13, 2013, Pope Francis has won over rank-and-file Catholics but has upset the conservative churchmen with his penchant for reforms, his embrace of environmentalism and taste for making history. At their Oct 2015 Synod, facing down considerable opposition within their ranks, the bishops endorsed the pope's reforms.
Thirteen of the newly named cardinals are under 80, so, on his death, they will be eligible to elect his successor.
Cardinals, the so-called princes of the Church, are the most senior members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy after the pope and serve as his principal advisers.
He selected the 13 churchmen from five continents. They include Archbishop Mario Zenari for war-battered Syria, which the pope described as a "beloved and martyred" nation. There is no indication of whether the Italian archbishop will be required to reside in the devastated and dangerous country.
Date written/update: 2016-10-12