Pope Francis says to create 19 cardinals in Feb

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - Pope Francis said on Sunday he will next month elevate 19 prelates to the rank of cardinal, his first appointments to the elite group of men who advise him, including 16 who can one day elect his successor.

Sixteen of the new cardinals are under 80 and are "cardinal electors", meaning they can enter a conclave to choose a new pope after his death or resignation.

They are from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti.

Only four of the cardinal electors are Vatican officials, chief among them Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Francis's new secretary of state, and Archbishop Mueller, the head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation.

The most prominent elector from Europe is Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster in London and the main link between Catholicism and the Anglican Church.

The remainder of the electors are from dioceses around the world. Four are from Latin America, including Archbishop Aurelio Poli, Francis's successor in the Argentine capital.

Two are from Africa and two are from Asia.

The three over 80, who will assume the title cardinal emeritus and will not be able to enter a conclave, come from Spain, Italy and the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia.

The ceremony to elevate the new cardinals, known as consistory, will be held on Feb 22, the pope said.