by Anura Guruge
On Monday of this week, November 21, 2011, we had the ‘jump for joy‘ news that, Thank God, the Blessed Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore had a new and worthy Archpriest, 76-year old, Spanish Archbishop Santos Abril y Castelló (dob: Sep. 21, 1935), a past nuncio and now Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber. The Vatican announcement of Nov. 21 (which astutely did not name who he was replacing), with characteristic penchant for bland, pedantic accuracy, just specified ‘Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber‘.
Most would not recognize this title, given that they will also not be conversant as to who is the Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber. The Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber is the The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, the ‘Camerlengo‘, the maestro of the sede vacante — currently, and as of April 4, 2007, the most eminent, 76-year old, #2 papabile Lord Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. (dob: Dec. 2, 1934), Cardinal Bishop of Frascati and Secretary of State.
Thus, the Vice-Chamberlain of the Apostolic Chamber is the non-cardinal Vice-Camerlengo. Archbishop Abril y Castelló’s appointment to this post, for an atypically disclosed 3-year term, on January 22, 2011, as the replacement for the newly created Cardinal Paolo Sardi, was discussed here.
Archbishop Abril y Castelló’s new appointment, as the head of Rome’s largest and most beloved Marian papal basilica, makes him a marginal cardinalabili. That is not really a problem. If created a cardinal, as was the case with Paolo Sardi, they will have to find a non-elector cardinal to replace him BECAUSE the Vice-Camerlengo has to stay outside of the conclave to monitor external, perimeter security.
Yes, in theory, he could be created once he has turned 80 and he could then continue as Vice-Camerlengo — but that atypical 3-year term gets in the way (though, of course, the pope can extend that at will).
Talk about the Vice-Camerlengo led to a discussion as to what would happen to the current Camerlengo given the chances that Benedict XVI (#266) will be around for quite a few more years.
Cardinal Bertone will turn 77 next week.
So, he still has 3 years, i.e., until Dec. 3, 2014, as a cardinal elector. He can continue as Camerlengo till then — without nary an issue. Period. He does not have to continue as Secretary of State to be the Camerlengo. He just needs to reside in Rome. I covered much of this in this July 3, 2011 post, some of this material from the new Appendix F of ‘The Next Pope 2011‘.
You will notice we have only had five (5) Camerlengos (or to be precise Camerlenghi) since the 80-year cut-off for conclaves kicked in on January 1, 1971. [Interestingly the Camerlengo when Paul VI (#263) instituted the new law in 1970 died in September of 1970, aged 91, 3 months prior to the cut-off!]
Of these five only one the prior Camerlengo, Cardinal Martínez Somalo, retired upon turning 80. Actually be retired 4 days after he turned 80. That brings up the issue of what would have happened if a sede vacante had occurred two days after he turned 80. I am convinced that it would not have been an issue.
Universi Dominici Gregis is very specific about the need to have a Camerlengo who is cardinal elector — so that he can be at the conclave, if nothing else to preside over the Particular Congregations. Since the Camerlengo is a head of a dicastery, the Apostolic Chamber, you could argue that per Paul VI’s 1970 edict he automatically loses his office even if he hasn’t resigned. We have already seen over 80 Deans not attending the conclave. So I do not see an issue. Yes, you could have the scenario that the over-80 Camerlengo certifies the popes death and attends the first few General Congregations. He will then be replaced seamlessly and without issue.
This, with luck, will be the start of a regular series on Camerlenghi. Yesterday I started creating Anu-special Excel spreadsheets for Camerlenghi. I intend to collect a fair chunk of data. I already know the longest serving Camerlenghi. So stay tuned. All the best.