01/12/2014 11:27 EST | Updated 03/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Quebec Archbishop, Among New Cardinals Appointed By Pope Francis

VATICAN, Vatican City - Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix was among a new batch of cardinals selected by Pope Francis on Sunday, joining an elite group near the top of the Catholic Church hierarchy.

A total of 19 men were named to the senior ecclesiastical post in an announcement at the Vatican.

The appointment means Lacroix will have a hand in electing the next pope, which is a cardinal's most important task.

"I'm touched by the confidence shown by Pope Francis," Lacroix told reporters following Sunday mass in Quebec City.

"I'm very happy to continue to serve the church with him."

Lacroix and the other new cardinals, known as the "princes of the Church," will be formally installed at a ceremony at the Vatican on Feb. 22.

The native of Saint-Hilaire de Dorset, a small town 300 kilometres east of Montreal, was named Quebec's archbishop in 2011.

The 56-year-old worked for more than a decade in Colombia after being ordained as a priest in 1988.

At a time of dwindling church attendance, Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine said the appointment represents something hopeful for the Church.

Lepine said Lacroix, like other cardinals, will have an important role at the highest level of the Catholic Church.

Traditionally, cardinals "have always been very close to the pope. This is still true today," Lepine said Sunday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the appointment a "tremendous honour" for Lacroix and Canada's Catholic Church.

“On behalf of our government, I offer my congratulations to Cardinal-designate Lacroix as he begins this new phase of his ministry,” Harper said in a statement.

The cardinals chosen by Pope Francis come from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, including the developing nations of Haiti and Burkina Faso, in line with his belief that the church must pay more attention to the poor.

Lacroix is only a year older than the youngest new cardinal. Monsignor Chibly Langlois from Haiti is 55.

Canada now has three cardinals, with Lacroix joining Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal and Thomas Collins of Toronto.

Lacroix's predecessor as Quebec archbishop, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, is no longer considered a representative of Canada, said Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre, a church spokesman in Quebec City.

He currently holds a top post at the Vatican as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Ouellet was a presumed contender to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in Feb. 2013.

- with files from Etienne Fortin-Gauthier and The Associated Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Gerald Cyprien Lacroix was 60 years old. He is in fact 56 years old

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