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Pope Francis elevates CAR's Nzapalainga to cardinal

Pope Francis

Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui in the Central African Republic, and Cardinal Maurice Piat from Mauritius are among 17 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church named by Pope Francis. Nzapalainga who’s 49 years of age will be the youngest of the 229 members of the College of Cardinals.

Nzapalainga is known as one of the “saints of Bangui” for his efforts to calm Muslim and Christian militia violence in a fight over the Central African Republic’s important diamond and mineral resources, CNN reports.

The new cardinals come from five continents, and include the Vatican’s envoy to Syria. The number chosen by the Pope is now close to a third of the College of Cardinals who will ultimately pick his successor, BBC adds.

Only cardinals under the age of 80 can vote on the next Pope, and 13 of those named cardinals on Saturday are under 80, and are now eligible to succeed him. This is the third time in three years that Pope Francis, the first Latin American Pope, has named new cardinals. He has used each opportunity to promote members from outside the College’s traditional European base, BBC further reports.

At the same time the Pope also decried what he said was a “growing animosity” between people, and raised concern over those who “raise walls, build barriers and label people”.