Pope Francis to name first cardinals in February
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
- Pope Francis will create new cardinals of the Catholic Church on February 22
- Cardinals are the highest-ranking clergy in the Catholic Church below the pope
- The ceremony at which new cardinals are created is known as a consistory
- There are currently 201 cardinals in the Catholic Church
Rome (CNN) -- Pope Francis will create new cardinals of the Catholic Church for his first time on February 22, the Vatican announced Thursday.
Cardinals are the highest-ranking clergy in the Catholic Church below the pope, and they're the ones who elect popes, so Francis will be appointing his first group of men who will ultimately help choose his successor.
There are now 201 cardinals. However, once a cardinal reaches 80 he is no longer permitted to participate in the election of a pope -- this falls to a group of 120 "cardinal electors."
In a statement announcing the news, Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said a meeting of all the existing cardinals would be held before the ceremony to elevate the new cardinals, known as a consistory.
Boy refuses to leave the Pope's side
"Pope Francis has decided to communicate his decision to convoke February's consistory in advance in order to facilitate the planning of other meetings involving the participation of cardinals from different parts of the world," Lombardi said.
Jack Valero of Catholic Voices said that by February, the number of cardinal electors was likely to have dropped. He said usually a pope would name as many cardinals as was needed to raise the number of cardinal electors back to 120 and as many cardinals aged over 80 as he wanted.
Next year's consistory would be significant because it would be the first since Francis was elected in March this year, Valero said.
"At the moment there is a sort of bias towards Europe and especially towards Italy. It will be interesting to see whether the new Pope will nominate cardinals from the rest of the world to restore the balance," he said.
"Forty percent of Roman Catholics are in South America, but they have a tiny number of cardinals."
The cardinals will also be the first to be chosen since Francis formed the Council of Cardinals, a group of eight cardinals from around the world tasked with looking into ways to reform the church.
Read more: Pope Francis tasks cardinals with studying reform
"In the past the Pope decided everything on his own. Now Francis has selected these eight cardinals to help him," Valero said. He said it was "quite possible" that Francis would ask the cardinals for advice.
"But we've not been in that situation before -- it's all completely new."
Valero said popes typically elevated bishops from large places to the position of cardinal but that Francis was "full of surprises -- so we don't know who he'll name."
Read more: Pope appoints 22 new cardinals
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.