pope francis
Pope Francis flouted the usual rules and nominated 15 voting-age cardinals, most from the developing world. Reuters

Pope Francis Sunday rejected Vatican tradition, naming 15 new cardinals, mostly from less developed countries like Tonga, Myanmar and Cape Verde, in his bid to change the church’s image and rebalance the College of Cardinals to include regions where Catholicism is growing fastest, the Wall Street Journal reported. Five nominees will be drawn from Europe -- two from Italy to increase that contingent to 48 -- three each from Asia and Latin America, and two each from Oceania and Africa.

All the nominees are less than 80 years of age, making them eligible to vote in the college of cardinals. Also, it means the current pope has nominated about a quarter of college members. They will be elevated during a ceremony at the Vatican Feb. 14. The ceremony will include five others no longer able to vote.

Currently, the College of Cardinals has 199 members, 106 of whom are eligible to vote. Most of the choices announced Sunday come from regions with smaller dioceses that are plagued by violence and poverty.

This time last year the pope named 19 new cardinals, many of whom also came from the developing world. In addition to electing a new pope, the cardinals are responsible for leading influential dioceses around the world and running key departments in the Vatican.

The nominees to be elevated in February are from from France, Portugal, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Mexico, Mynamar, Thailand, Uruguay, Spain, Panama, Cape Verde, Tonga, and two from Italy. Five from Colombia, Germany, Argentina, Mozambique and Italy nominated in 2014 will also be elevated at the same ceremony.