Pope Francis greets nuns after visiting the Pediatric Dispensary of Santa Marta at the Vatican December 14, 2013. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano
The surprise appearance of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who abdicated in February 2013 and thus the reason for Pope Francis' rise to the post after the March 2013 conclave, far much eclipsed the reason of the ceremony which were the 19 clergymen chosen from worldwide to become cardinals.
Apart from ensuring to spread the Good News, the new cardinals' first and foremost job description is to ensure the election of a new pope when the time comes. Sixteen of the 19 new appointees remain under 80, which is the age limit for participating in the election of future popes.
Entering discreetly from a side entrance of St Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI entry was greeted with applause and tears from the stunned people in the pews. He took the seat in the front row, alongside the red-draped cardinals. He was observed to be genuinely happy being there.
Pope Francis acknowledged the presence of the former Pontiff by openly embracing him. In exchange, Benedict XVI removed his white skullcap as a sign of respect to the incumbent pope.
While Benedict had no formal role whatsoever in the ceremony, the newly minted Cardinals continued to bestow on him the honor and respect given to a pope. Each of the 19, after receiving his traditional biretta or red cap, and ring from Pope Francis at the altar went afterwards to Benedict XVI's seat to greet him.
"We are grateful for your presence here among us," newly elevated Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, told Benedict XVI.
Saturday's elevation was the first time the two popes appeared together at a public liturgical ceremony.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis reminded the newly minted 19 Cardinals that their position "does not signify a promotion, an honor nor a decoration: it is simply a service that demands a broader vision and a bigger heart."
"And, although it seems a paradox, this ability to look further and love more universally with greater intensity can be acquired only by following the way of the Lord: The way of lowliness and of humility, taking the form of a servant."
The cardinals came from diverse cultural and geographical locations around the world.
"The choice of cardinals of Burkina Faso and Haiti shows concern for people struck by poverty," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi earlier told Vatican Radio.