Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will hold a consistory next month to create 15 new cardinals.

Among those nominated is Hong Kong's Bishop Joseph Zen who has clashed with the authorities in mainland China.

The former secretary to Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz and Pope Benedict's successor as the Vatican's Doctrinal chief, William Levada, are also included.

Pope Benedict announced his first nominations to the elite college of cardinals at his weekly general audience.

Twelve of the nominees are under 80 and qualify for a vote in a papal election. But only three head Vatican departments.

Also included is Archbishop Seán O'Malley who succeeded Cardinal Bernard Law after he was forced to resign from Boston.

Venezuela, France, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, South Korea and Hong Kong each get a cardinal.

The three new non-voters come from Italy, Ghana and France.

Ireland will lose its voting rights when Cardinal Desmond Connell turns 80 on 24 March, which is the day the new cardinals are installed.

The new cardinals-designate are:
* William Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
* Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life 
* Agostino Vallini, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature
* Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas
* Gaudencio B. Rosales, Archbishop of Manila
* Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux
* Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Archbishop of Toledo
* Nicolas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul
* Sean Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston
* Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow and secretary of Pope John Paul II
* Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna
* Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop of Hong Kong
* Andrea Cordero Lanza Di Montezemolo, Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
* Peter Poreku Dery, Archbishop emeritus of Tamale, in Ghana
* P. Albert Vanhoye, former Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission