Mar 212011

by Anura Guruge
(Revised March 24, 2011)

Today is the first full day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and we have yet to have a cardinal pass away in 2011. That is unusual.

We have to go back to 2003 to find a year when the first death was later in the year, in this instance the disgraced Austrian Hans Hermann Groër on March 24, 2003.

1953 (the year of my birth) stand out when it comes to cardinal deaths as of 1900.

No cardinals died in 1953.

The last cardinal to die was 80 year old Italian Italian cardinal priest, Michele Giordano, on December 2, 2010.

I did some quick research and analysis of cardinal deaths as of January 1, 2005 — that being the year that the current pope began his reign. Since 2005, with the exception of 2008 (when the first death was on March 6), we would have a death of a cardinal in January. The average for that period is of the first cardinal for the year dying by the 20th of January.

When cardinals die by Anura Guruge

Between 2005 and 2010 the average number of cardinals dying per year was 7.5, with 5 in 2005 and 10 in 2007. Here is a chart of the number of cardinals to die each year between 2005 and 2010, the numbers being: 5, 8, 10, 8, 8, 6.

Number of cardinals dying 2005 to 2011

Since 2005, on average, we have had a cardinal dying every 49 days.

It has now been 110 days since the last — so over twice the norm.

Number of days between cardinal deaths by Anura Guruge


  15 Responses to “Deaths of Cardinals — The Trends”

  1. Dear Anu
    The numbers of Cardinal deaths since Pope John Paul died shows a gradual increase from 2005 and peaking in 2007 with 11 and then declining to the current year. Interesting, Anu you have a way with objective statistics and in this finding you seem perplexed and even calling it “unusual”. You even made comparisons to prior years. Can you push the envelope just a bit more with an educated guess as to the significance of this pattern? I think your experience and statistical mind has a worthy hypothesis or a few. But before you do this I want you to keep this in the back of your mind. I hope Synchronicity doesn’t strike you as too far fetched even but I have something vaguely in mind as well. Carl Jung was an intuitive and he attempted to substantiate the psychological with the physical with synchronicity. You appear to be an extrovert while occasionally running into stats that seem to fit in with this definition: “…a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved. Synchronicity elucidates meaningful arrangements and coincidences which somehow go beyond the probability of chance.” Carl Jung has a book that I find difficult to follow but I think it may merge your stat mindset to the “unusual” stats you may run into occasionally, especially in dealing with Popes and Cardinals…haha

  2. Dear Juan,
    I am working on it even as we ‘type’.
    I am going to go back till 1900. We have to keep in mind that until 1958, the size of the College was kept to below 70. Plus, Pius XII let the numbers dwindle during his reign.

  3. Currently, 2 Cardinal electors are suffering from grave illnesses. Cardinal Husar, who resigned last month and Cardinal John Foley, who also submitted his resignation to the Pope and returned to Philadelphia permanently where he is residing in a priest retirement home and suffering from Leukemia, which he has refused treatment for.
    Additionally, it has been reported that Cardinal Bevilacqua is in declining health.

    It may be possible that we can lose to electors before the end of 2011.

  4. WARM Welcome back, Dear Fr. John,
    Yes, I was aware of both cases you mention. I did tweet about both of them. Yes, I am also aware that the pope has not accepted Foley’s resignation though he submitted it c. Feb. 18. [Have YOU been to see him? I mean Foley, not the pope.]
    I did the stats and graphs last night.
    This morning … on my run … I had visions of going online … checking Dear Salvador’s ‘additions’ and seeing that a cardinal died! That is how my luck normally works.

    In your last sentence I think you meant ‘we can lose TWO elector’. Yes, possible.

    Maybe YOU or your buddy Louis (who has been pining for you) could do this … can’t remember the exact statistical term …

    [I am working on death stats going back to 1900 and I will be able to provide # deaths per year per decade etc.]

    But right now we are losing 7.7 cardinals per year.

    We have (and most likely continue to have) a consistory every 2 years — where the pope creates 20 new cardinals.

    So every 2 years we are like ‘+5.’ So we can extrapolate how the size of the College will grow.

    Thanks. Cheers.

    P.S., I have been thinking of you, with Philly so much in the news.

  5. To complete the “latest first death of a cardinal since…” arc (since the anniversary of the death of Cardinal Groer will soon be upon us)…
    in 1999,Cardinal Silva Henriquez died on April 9th.
    in 1995,Cardinal Rossi died on May 21st.
    in 1988,you can choose between the “quasi cardinal” Urs von Balthasar on June 26th or Cardinal Volk on July 1st (curiously enough,a “quasi German” and a German respectively).
    in 1985,the only three deaths began with Cardinal Poma on September 24th.
    There were no later first deaths after the deathless 1953.

  6. Thanks. I got these in today’s spreadsheet. You know Dear Salvador has an ‘obituary’ section. That is what I have been using. I will NOW have to check 1988! Forgotten that Dear Salvador includes quasi. We actually had an e-mail chat today. He liked the little I had done so far.
    You are right … ‘no later deaths’ than in 1953. I have been thinking about how to handle that in my graph. Do I leave it blank or do I put in 367?
    I can get the raw data and once I have it, I can crank the numbers any which way we need it, by decade, by pope whatever.
    Can YOU please work on the cerebral stuff. Stuff that my friend Juan wants to know about.
    What does it all mean? Are there trends?
    SOMETHING I wish you had: size of the College at the start of each year. I think Salvador might have that in Cronica or Additions … but only for the last 20 years. Yes, I have it for the conclaves.

  7. Damn. 1988. Quasi-never-created-never-a-bishop wonk. This stuff REALLY irks me. He evens has a ‘cardinalate’ section! And says 7 cardinals died in 1988. No, 6 cardinals died in 1988. Now, I have to check every damn entry. Damn. Damn. Damn. I am not amused.
    Thanks. I would have had bad data.

  8. Try this.
    1982 — first death March 22 (tomorrow).
    1981 — May 28.

    So 1981, 1982. My son’s birthday; my youngest daughter’s birthday.

  9. I have change-by-change numbers for the size of the College from the implementation of Ingravescentam Aetatem in 1971,but at some unspecified date my numbers go off and I don’t know the error.After a later date I correct the error.So if I send you that whole file will you go through and spot the death or 80th birthday that I missed?

  10. Thanks for the warm welcome back!!

    Yes, I meant “two” – but that may have been a Freudian Slip!!

    No, I have not been to see Cardinal Foley. I do not personally know him. And, yes, it has been a difficult time in Philly. I have been wanting to go see Cardinal Rigali about something unrelated to the crisis, but I am waiting until things calm down a lot.

    I will be posting some more!

  11. I will try. I am not really that good at that. BUT, yours will be a good start.
    P.S., You must be delighted to see your ol’ buddy back … in full steam.

  12. Crazy busy day today. Teischan’s 5th birthday and we are having a Tinkerbell theme party at the Community Center. So rushing out of the door. Will be gone till late tonight. So I will get back later tonight or tomorrow. Thanks.

  13. Fr. John,
    I have read, recently, that Cardinal Foley appears to be amiable to more socializing given his current circumstances. You must know the ‘nursing home’ that he is at. You should pay him a courtesy visit. I am not sure you, especially given your office, will need an invitation or appointment. He probably will be glad to see you. A lot you can chat about. He might enjoy it and it would be great for you. Maybe you could start doing it regularly on Friday afternoons. Take him some outstanding fish-and-chips. This could become, with luck, YOUR ‘Fridays with Foley’. I will publish it for you.
    Yes, I wondered about YOU and Rigali, given that I knew that you ‘knew’ him. You should see him too.
    Yes, please send some new insights for posting.
    All the best. Cheers.

  14. I will hope to do some visiting. But, for right now, I am dealing with dead young people and not dead cardinals. I will have done 3 funerals for 3 men under 30. Two of whom are former students of mine. This takes some time and energy. In these cases, I need to spend some considerable time with their parents and try to work on producing a more than adequate homily. This is actually one of the things that I intend to speak with Rigali about.

    As for my friend, I was very proud of his accomplishments in Ireland. He finally got some papabile nods for his work in Ireland. Some good international press for these bearded American Cardinal!

  15. Dear Fr. John,
    Yes, dealing with ‘young’ deaths has to be hard. Bravo for YOUR efforts. A ‘boy’ that I used to take to a local arcade with my son, they were 6 years apart, died recently at 24 of cancer. Has to be hard. Now given that ‘we’ know that you work with those with addiction problems, can we assume that two of the deaths were ‘related’ to that.
    Yes, I have been vaguely hearing the chatter about the ONLY bearded American cardinal.
    Did YOU see that today, the pope honored St. Lawrence of Brindisi — another Capuchin.
    So here is ANOTHER idea. Given that he will NEVER be pope, you should suggest to him that he should try to be the LATEST Doctor of the Church (though it may be too late now). But, if he wants to shoot for that, I will gladly do the ghost writing for him. I haven’t checked of late but I don’t think we have had a new ‘Dr. of C.’ for a long time.
    Best of luck when you meet with Rigali.
    I will confess, IF I was closer, I would go and shoot the breeze with Foley. He must have some good yarns to spin.
    Thanks & Cheers,

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