Pope Benedict picks 24 new cardinals

Image caption,
Pope Benedict has now chosen three groups of cardinals

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen 24 new cardinals, including 10 Italians, as he moves to put his stamp on Vatican affairs.

Twenty of the new cardinals, who are the Pope's close advisers, are under the age of 80, making them eligible to choose the next pontiff.

The Pope has now chosen about 50 of 120 clergy who will select his successor.

The new intake includes clergy who hold key Church posts in Kinshasa, Quito, Lusaka, Munich and Warsaw.

The Pope has also selected American Archbishop Raymond Burke, who has been sharply critical of the Democratic Party in the US over its support for abortion rights.

Analysts say the next pontiff is likely to be similar in outlook to Pope Benedict, as the bulk of his appointees have been conservative.

And the new cardinals bring to 25 the number of Italians eligible to select the next pontiff, leading some Vatican watchers to speculate that the next Pope will be Italian.

For four centuries, until the election of Polish Pope John Paul II in 1978, the papacy was dominated by Italians.

It is the third time Pope Benedict has chosen new cardinals since succeeding John Paul II in 2005.

They will be formally installed on 20 November.