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 CNS Story:


Conclave boasts widest geographical mix of cardinals in history

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The coming conclave is expected to be the largest in history, with a wide geographical mix of cardinal-electors.

There are 117 cardinals under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a papal election. They come from 53 different countries, and the vast majority of them have served as pastors in archdioceses around the world.

The cardinals' average age is 71 years, seven months. That is about four years older than the average age of electors in the last conclave in 1978.

The oldest among current voters is Italian Cardinal Marco Ce, the retired patriarch of Venice, who turns 80 in July. The youngest is 52-year-old Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest.

Pope John Paul II appointed all but three of the voting-age cardinals: U.S. Cardinal William W. Baum, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines. They are the only ones ever to have participated in a conclave.

The geographical breakdown of conclave voters has become more diverse since 1978, but Europeans still dominate. Forty-six of the electors come from Western Europe and 12 from Eastern Europe, for a total of 58, or nearly half of the voting-age cardinals.

There are 21 Latin American cardinal-electors, about 18 percent of the total; 14 from North America, or about 12 percent; and 11 each from Africa and Asia, representing about 9 percent for each continent. Oceania has two voting-age cardinals, about 1.7 percent of the total.

In the country-by-country breakdown, Italy has 20 voting-age cardinals, followed by the United States with 11, Germany and Spain with six each, France with five, and Brazil and Mexico with four each. Four countries, including Canada, have three cardinal-electors.

The Italian presence in the conclave has dropped since the last papal election in 1978, when Italy had 26 voting cardinals. Italians now represent 17 percent of the conclave voters, compared to 23 percent in 1978; in the conclaves of 1963 and 1958, the Italians made up more than 30 percent of the total number of voters.

The 11 U.S. cardinals, representing 9.4 percent of the voting total, are a record high number from the United States.

In terms of influence, the Vatican as an institution will be heavily represented, with 28 members of the Roman Curia voting in the conclave -- 24 percent of the total.

Among the voting-age cardinals, there are 20 members of religious orders, including four Franciscans, three Jesuits and three Salesians. Two of the cardinal-electors are members of Opus Dei.


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