by Anura Guruge
Yesterday, January 26, 2011, French cardinal priest, Bernard Panafieu turned 80 and thus ceased to be an elector. With this birthday, the College, that had been one-above the 120 cardinal elector limit since the November 20, 2010 consistory, was back to being within limits.
Why the pope only exceeded the 120 limit by one will now be an abiding mystery. Cardinal Vidal turns 80 on February 6. Two others will turn 80 by February 19, 2011. So, why not have named three more over the limit. Exceeding the limit by one, was neither ‘neither here nor there.’ It appeared timorous. Shaky. John Paul II (#265) had already shown how it could be done with panache. In 2001 he exceeded the 120 by 8, and then in 2003, he went above the limit by 15! And, in 2003, it was not as if he was in the best possible health.
So now the drop in the electors below the 120 mark begins, starting on February 6. To be fair, this is OK. We have never had a conclave with 120 electors. The most we have ever had, and that was at the last conclave, was 115.
In September to December 2010 there were enough posts here about this issue and even a full list of the aging of this College.
For now, I will just leave you with this chart — given that we are unlikely to have another cardinal creating consistory to top up the numbers till at least March 2012.