Benedict, 84, celebrated a solemn Mass in St Peter’s Basilica with the cardinals, a day after he raised them to the highest rank in the Church under him.
“The new dignity that has been conferred upon you is intended to show appreciation for the faithful labour you have carried out... to honour the communities and nations from which you come and which you represent so worthily in the church,” he said in his homily.
Their positions he said, would invest them with “new and more important ecclesial responsibilities”.
Cardinals are the pope’s closest aides. Those under 80 are part of the exclusive group who will one day elect one of their own to succeed him as leader of 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.
They lead major archdioceses and run Vatican departments that help the pope decide Church policy and doctrine.
Among the most prominent in the group is New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is being touted by some as future pope.