Pope Francis makes Vincent Nichols a Cardinal

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, outside Westminster Cathedral, London (Fiona Hanson/PA)PA

Vincent Nichols was created a cardinal alongside 18 other prelates at a ceremony in Rome on Saturday.

The first ordinary public Consistory to be held by Pope Francis was also joined by his predecessor Benedict XVI, and the two shared a warm embrace at the start of the celebration in St Peter's Basilica.

During the ceremony, the Pope presented Cardinal Nichols with the red biretta and the cardinalatial ring.

Cardinal Nichols was also assigned the titular church of The Most Holy Redeemer and St Alphonsus in Rome.

In his homily, Pope Francis urged the cardinals to think "as God does" and not as men do.

He warned that rivalry, jealousy and factions prevail "whenever a wordly mentality predominates".

"We are all too human, sinners," he said.

He challenged the cardinals to be peacemakers, and examples of courage and compassion at a time of "pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world".

Prayers were requested for a peaceful end to conflicts in the world and the Pope specifically remembered Christians suffering discrimination or "injustice on account of their religious convictions".

Newly-elected Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols Archbishop of Westminster is greeted by Pope Francis after he received the red three-cornered biretta hat during a consistory inside the St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican(AP)

"[The] Church needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, communion with me and among yourselves," he said.

Cardinal Nichols has been in the headlines in the last week over his strong criticism of the Government's welfare reforms, which he said had torn apart the social safety net and left many in hardship.

His appointment as a cardinal has been welcomed by the social action arm of the Catholic Church, CSAN, of which he is a patron.

CSAN Chief Executive Helen O'Brien said his appointment would "reinforce the Church's social action mission".

"Archbishop Nichols is a consistently powerful advocate of social justice," she said.

"On issues ranging from the removal of the welfare safety net to the challenges facing migrant communities, he has shown inspirational leadership rooted in the Church's preferential option for the poor and its defence of human dignity."