On December 7, 2011, we have our final 80th birthday of a member of the College of Cardinals. Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk, Cardinal, Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea (80.00) turns the magic number.
The one fascinating thing about this, unless his resignation is accepted with 24 hours, he will be a rare breed in that he is continuing to be an active ordinary of an Archdiocese as a Cardinal Archbishop past the age of 80, when traditionally all active functions cease.
We have seen this in the Curia recently with Sodano and also among the Archpriest of the Major Roman Basilicas this is not uncommon (latest example ‘XXX‘). However, with a sitting ordinary, I do not recall it happening too often, even among the most favored Princes of the Church.
One reason for this may be the geographical. Many bishops in mission territory or places where there are fewer priests and bishops serve as long as their health permits, well after the age of 80. As a matter of fact, in the Korean Diocese of P’yong-yang, the active prelate is 105 years old Francis Hong Yong-ho, Bishop (105.15)! He is the oldest active Ordinary in the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk is currently the 12th oldest active Bishop in the Universal Catholic Church, the 4th oldest in Roman Latin Rite Church, including Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a list:
We will see if and when his resignation is accepted.
Given that a consistory was not called in 2011, the numbers seem to indicate that one will most definitely be called in 2012. Barring any deaths, the number of electors will fall below 100 in November. Several key Archbishops have predecessors who turn 80 in 2012 (New York, Rio, Manila, West Minster, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Bogota and Prague). I am sure those prelates and their countries are anxious to see a red ha
Additionally, there are two major positions that need to be filled that are red hat immediates: the Patriarch of Venice and, if rumors are correct, the position of Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith if Cardinal Levada submits a resignation that is accepted. I personally do not believe that is likely, but the Roman press and those in the know seem to think otherwise. I also believe that both positions could be filled with a current Cardinal (Ravasi to Venice and Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige to the Office of the Inquisitor –[given he will no longer be attending cocktail parties in Sri Lanka]). However, their replacements would become candidates.
It will be a year for Cardinal watching and my guess is to watch for an April consistory on the Feast of Mercy Sunday (the week after Easter). I believe the Popes failing health will become a public matter by that time if the decline I see in everyday pictures keeps on pace, the press of the Christmas liturgies and the toll it will take on him will become too much to hide the severity.
Beginning in January, I will have a more comprehensive Cardinalabili List with notes and commentaries complete with the ages of the candidates being changed to reflect the age they will turn in 2012. I am also brushing up on my Papabili list for 2012. My guess is for a Fall Conclave.