Pope Francis on Saturday elevated 21 clergymen from distant corners of the world to the rank of cardinal, saying diversity was indispensable to the future of the Catholic Church.
With the sun shining over the Vatican City's St Peter's Square, the 86-year-old pope welcomed the new, so-called "Princes of the Church" -- one of whom could one day become the successor to the current pontiff.
"The College of Cardinals is called to resemble a symphony orchestra, representing the harmony and synodality of the Church," said Francis, seated under a canopy before the gathered cardinals on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.
"Diversity is necessary; it is indispensable. However, each sound must contribute to the common design," said the Argentine Jesuit.
The choice of the new cardinals, who include diplomats, close advisers and administrators, is closely watched as an indication of the priorities and position of the Church.
One of them could also one day be elected by his peers to succeed Francis, who has left the door open to stepping down in the future should his health warrant it.
Saturday's ceremony, known as a consistory, is the ninth since Francis in 2013 was named head of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics.
Eighteen of the 21 newly made cardinals are under the age of 80 and thus currently eligible to vote as "cardinal electors" in the next conclave, when Francis' successor will be decided.
Throughout his papacy, Francis has sought to create a more inclusive, universal Church, looking past Europe to clergy in Africa, Asia and Latin America to fill the Church's highest ranks.
With his latest roster of cardinals, Francis has again looked to the world's "peripheries" -- where Catholicism is growing -- while breaking with the practice of promoting archbishops of large, powerful dioceses.