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The College of Cardinals (or Cardinalate) is the body of all cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

A function of the college is to advise the pope about church matters when he summons them to an ordinary consistory. It also convenes on the death or abdication of a pope as a papal conclave to elect a successor. The college has no ruling power except during the sede vacante (papal vacancy) period, and even then its powers are extremely limited by the terms of the current law, which is laid down in the Apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis.

Historically, cardinals were the clergy of the city of Romemarker, serving the Bishop of Rome as the Pope, who had clerical duties in parishes of the city. The College has its origins in the events surrounding the crowning of Henry IV as King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor at the age of six, after the unexpected death of Henry III in 1056. Up until this point secular authorities had significant influence over who was to be appointed Pope, and the Holy Roman Emperor in particular had the special ability to appoint him. This was significant as the aims and views of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Church did not always coincide. Members of what was to become known as the Gregorian Reform took advantage of the new King and his lack of power, and in 1059 declared that the election of the Pope was an affair only for the Church. This was part of a larger power struggle, named the Investiture Controversy, as the Church attempted to gain more control over their clergy, and in doing so gain more influence in the lands and governments they were appointed to. Theological implications aside, its creation represented a significant shift in the balance of power in the Early Medieval world. From the beginning of the 12th century, the College of Cardinals started to meet as a college, when the cardinal bishops, cardinal priests, and cardinal deacons ceased acting as separate groups.

The Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Sub-Dean are the president and vice-president of the college. Both are elected by and from the cardinals holding suburbicarian dioceses, but the election requires Papal confirmation. Except for presiding, the dean has no power of governance over the cardinals, instead acting as primus inter pares (first among equals).

The Secretary of State, the prefects of the Congregations of the Roman Curia, the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, the Vicar General of Rome, and the Patriarchs of Venice and Lisbonmarker, are usually Cardinals, with few, generally temporary, exceptions. The Fundamental Law of Vatican City Statemarker requires that appointments to the state's legislative body, the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, be cardinals.

Choosing the Pope

Italian cardinals as percentage of total College of Cardinals (1903-2005)
2005 17.09

October 1978 22.50

August 1978 22.80

1963 35.36

1958 35.80

1939 54.80

1922 51.60

1914 50.76

1903 56.25

Since 1 January 1971, cardinals who have reached the age of 80 before the conclave opens have not had a vote in papal elections, under the terms of Pope Paul VI's motu proprio Ingravescentem Aetatem.

The rules for the election of the Roman Pontiff are stated in Universi Dominici Gregis, published by Pope John Paul II on 22 February 1996. It states that cardinals who have reached the age of 80 before the day the see becomes vacant do not have a vote in the Papal election.

Although the rules of the Conclave explicitly say the Pope need not be chosen from among the ranks of the Cardinals (in theory any unmarried Catholic male may be elected Pope), this has been the consistent practice since the election of Pope Urban VI in 1378.

Members of the College of Cardinals

The following is the list of all living Cardinals as of 25 June 2009. Cardinals are shown in order of precedence, based on seniority by date of appointment. Eugênio de Araújo Sales is the most senior member of the College by length of service (the Protopriest); he is the last surviving from the 1969 consistory. Angelo Sodano, however, has the highest precedence as a Cardinal Bishop as dean of the College of Cardinals.

Cardinals who have reached the age of 80 are indicated with an asterisk (*). Józef Glemp will be the next cardinal to lose his right to participate in the conclave on 18 December 2009. The oldest living cardinal is currently Paul Augustin Mayer.

All but thirteen of the Cardinals alive at the death of Pope John Paul II were appointed by him. Three of those thirteen were under 80 years old as of the day of John Paul II's death. One of those three (Joseph Ratzinger) has since been elected Pope as Benedict XVI, another one (Jaime Sin) did not attend the resulting conclave for health reasons and died shortly afterwards, and the third, William Wakefield Baum, turned 80 on 21 November 2006. There are now a total of 185 cardinals, of whom 113 are aged under 80.

There are three ranks of Cardinals: Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests, and Cardinal Deacons. Almost all Cardinals are also bishops.

Cardinals of the Order of Bishops

Titular Bishops of seven suburbicarian sees

Patriarchs of Oriental Rites

Cardinals of the Order of Priests

Appointed by Pope Paul VI

Consistory of 28 April 1969

Consistory of 5 March 1973

Consistory of 24 May 1976

Appointed by Pope John Paul II

Consistory of 30 June 1979

Consistory of 2 February 1983

Consistory of 25 May 1985

Consistory of 28 June 1988

Consistory of 28 June 1991

Consistory of 26 November 1994

Consistory of 21 February 1998

Consistory of 21 February 2001

Consistory of 21 October 2003

Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI

Consistory of 24 March 2006

Consistory of 24 November 2007

Cardinals of the Order of Deacons

Cardinal Deacons have the right to apply to become Cardinal Priests after ten years as Cardinal Deacons, with the rare exception of Cardinals who are not Bishops. All living former Cardinal Deacons created prior to 2001 have exercised this right.

Appointed by Pope John Paul II

Consistory of 21 February 2001

Consistory of 21 October 2003

Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI

Consistory of 24 March 2006

Consistory of 24 November 2007

Size of the College of Cardinals

See also


  1. CIC 1983, can. 349
  2. John Paul II, Ap. Const. Universi Dominici Gregis in AAS 88 (1996)
  3. Broderick, J.F. 1987. "The Sacred College of Cardinals: Size and Geographical Composition (1099-1986)." Archivum historiae Pontificiae, 25: 8.
  4. In 2003 Pope John Paul II announced he was also creating one cardinal secretly (in pectore), which would have taken effect if the appointment had been announced before the Pope's death. There was press speculation that it was his senior personal secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz or else resided in the mainland of the People's Republic of China. However, on 6 April 2005 it was revealed by the Vatican spokesman that Pope John Paul II had not announced the name of this cardinal before witnesses prior to his death and that the appointment was therefore null.
  5. with which the Holy See does not currently maintain diplomatic relations
  6. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, with which the Holy See does not currently maintain diplomatic relations.

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