Dec 062010

by Anura Guruge

Pope Benedict XVI becomes the 7th oldest pope. July 19, 2010 post.
Pope Benedict XVI was the 5th oldest to be elected pope. July 21, 2010 post.
The length of the past papacies, July 28, 2010 post.
The youngest popes. June 24, 2010 post.
Papabili 2009 list, as it appeared in Anura Guruge’s ‘The Next Pope’ book.

Per my self appointed task, I have again been pondering papabili, post the November 20, 2010 cardinal creating consistory. As is my wont, I do this by staring at various tables — all of which, given my my penchant for data, have the ages of the prospective cardinals.

Then it hit me last night. I have been wrong! I had maintained that the next pope, when elected, will not be over 75 … bearing in mind, that the current pope,
Benedict XVI (#266), at 78 years and 3 days, was the 5th oldest pope to be elected since 1400. [Refer to the links at top.]

Thanks to advances in medicines, health care and diagnostic technologies, people, around the world, but particularly so in the developed countries are living longer and longer. The current pope, at 83, has the best medical care ever received by a pope. The pope has an elder brother, a priest, who is still alive at 89. The chances are that the pope will also live to be 89, if not more.
The average age of the eighty non-elector cardinals is 83.3 years.

Pope and cardinal statistics by Next Pope expert Anura Guruge
Today, we have to assume that the next pope, unless he already had serious health problems when elected (and even then, as with Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien who has a pace maker for his heart, modern health care could still do miracles), is likely to live to be at least 85. Look at the statistics.

The cardinal electors, intentionally or otherwise, will have to recalibrate their expectations when thinking about the next pope. Today’s 75 was the 65 around the time of Good Pope John (#262). [And even he was elected at the age of 76.]

A cardinal elected at 70 as the next pope could easily enjoy a 15 year papacy. That is not exceptionally long, but long enough. Popes can change over the course of that time, especially if they are older.

Yes, of course, Canon Law explicitly permits a pope to legitimately retire — and Benedict XVI, in his recent, much publicized ‘book-length’ interview, talked about the possibility popes retiring [i.e., resigning]. But, this is a long shot. For very good reasons, we haven’t had a pope resign in close to 600 years. Yes, there are other means whereby the papal ‘court’ can force a succession — but again today’s far superior medical technology puts a crimp in that too. Plus, there is the whole issue that when a pope ceases to be, his inner circle lose their jobs, status and power. Consequently, those closest to a pope will do their best to prevent a pope from resigning [unless, of course, he has driven them all way beyond distraction]. There are credible accounts that the last two years of John Paul II’s reign was but a ‘puppet regime.’

This could be a dilemma for electors when it comes to the next pope.

This potential for exceptional longevity changes many of the ‘ground rules.’ There is a lot of talk right now that it is time for another Italian pope. That could very well be the case. But, would they want an Italian pope who might reign for 15 years?

This issue of potentially protracted papacies get even more ‘complicated’ when we start thinking of ‘change.’ We have never had a Latin American pope or even a pope from the Americas (and before anybody gets excited, I am thinking Canada, not the USA). Will the electors be willing to make such a big change if they think they will not get a chance to rectify it for over 15 years. When I put together my 2008 papabili list, I excluded Brazil’s highly regarded Cardinal Cláudio Hummes as being too old and went with the considerably younger Scherer. I have had many e-mails and online comments about Cardinal Hummes. The way I am thinking now … he looks GOOD!

And this is where it starts getting ‘scary.’ The next conclave may not happen till 2016 or even later. Cardinal Hummes would be 82 in 2016. That is one year younger than Benedict XVI is today. At 82, assuming he is healthy, he would make an interesting choice. A potential 5 to 7 year ‘transitional’ papacy. It is always worth remembering that you do not need a length papacy to get things done. Good Pope John’s papacy lasted 4 years and 218 days.

So food for thought.

I am going to change my guidelines. I am going to start focusing on cardinals 75 or over!

  29 Responses to “The Next Pope Is Also Likely To Be Over 75, Possibly Even A Non-Elector”

  1. Hi Anura,

    As much as it sounds an interesting food for thought, on all practical accounts, I believe the Cardinals will elect a younger prospect. The reason for this thought process is that the Church in Europe and North America is not appealing for the younger audience, and electing an older pope will make only matters worse.

    In all accounts, JP11 had a much younger audience following him from the very inception of his Papacy, it’s not the case with Benedict XVI

    Open for comments

  2. Thanks Kenny,
    I am going to reply to this in more detail. I thought about it for a good 40 minutes on my walk this morning with Ulysses. [Not running right now. Still on the mend. So walking instead. Ulysses likes it. He is 10 now. From the time he was 7 weeks old, till about a year ago he used to go with me on my run. Then it became too much for him. So my wife started walking him, while I went running. But, now that I am walking I am taking him.]
    Kenny, please look at Marko’s comments about pre-marital sex etc here. You should get involved in that discussion too.
    I will respond to you this afternoon, when I am having my lunch time glass of medicinal red Italian wine. [Just like a good cardinal.]
    Thanks. Cheers

  3. Can a non-elector be elected pope? Since a non-elector cannot participate in a conclave, how could he be elected as pope? And even before when there was no distinction between an elector and non elector there has been no pope elected above age 80 years old since 1400.So I think the next pope would still be below age 80 years old.

  4. Dom,
    You do not have to be at the conclave to be elected. Clause #90 of Universi Dominci Gregis even caters ‘if the person elected resides outside Vatican City’. Clause #83 even says you can elect a person ‘outside the College of Cardinals.’ So electing a non-elector is not an issue, equivalent of electing somebody in absentia.
    You are right that there has been no pope elected, since 1400, who was 80. But, I think, that that is a fluke.
    We had two elected, in their 79th year, in the 17th century.
    People just didn’t live as long. The increase in life expectancy is the issue.
    The average age at which the 61 popes, post 1400, died was 71.8 years.
    Now we have had two popes, back to back, that have exceeded age 83.
    I have no vested interest in seeing a 80 year old elected pope.
    Most likely it will be somebody between 75-80.
    Thanks. Cheers.

  5. Interesting thoughts Anura
    I have to say, you might be right but I hope not. An old Pope would be alienated from his flock, both in how they (especially young people) relate to him and how he relates to the world.
    And mental acuity is another issue. We are much better at keeping the body going than in keeping the mind sharp past 80-85 years old. JP2 was likely a figurehead the last few years of his life because of that.
    My proposal would be a term limit of 20 years and mandatory Papal retirement at 85. Yes, it’s a pipe dream, but your idea of ancient Popes is a nightmare.

  6. An older Cardinal will only be elected if the College is looking for another stop-gap Pope. Because JPII is so fresh in our minds,it is certainly possibly that the Cardinals may want another Pope with a projected reign shorter than 10 years. I would not entirely rule out some of the younger candidates (I say this partially for mercenary reasons; I projected Ouellet as my #1). JPII was special. I do not anticipate another Pope having that rock-star status with the youth. Even a Cardinal as young as Ouellet or Barbarin in their early 60’s won’t have the same effect as the election of then Cardinal Wojtyła. But the Cardinals will elect the most able man, regardless of his age.

    Having said that, I know non-electors are still eligible for election, but my hunch is that 80 has become an invisible line. Since that age is set as the cut-off for having a vote, that age line may be a subliminal factor in not electing an 80+ Pope. Obviously it is impossible to know from the outside, but my feeling is an older Pope is plausible but probably not over 80.

  7. By the way Anura, I am glad you are doing better and welcome back (to your own blog)…

  8. Thank you, my friend. It was a tough too weeks. Finally today, having started off walking and I did some running. Not all the way. But, certainly a step in the right direction. Thank you. Glad to have YOU back too. Missed you and your incisive observations. I will respond to other comments later. As you might have worked out … I like to think about them before I respond. All the best. Happy holidays.

  9. I like the term limit and the mandatory retirement age. Makes a lot of sense.
    But, the problem, as you can easily imagine, is what do YOU do with a living ex-pope. A bit like, BUT FAR MORE DANGEROUS, than living, ex-US presidents.
    You could make them take a vow of silence and send them to a specially constructed Abbey on the Island of Elba. But that is not going to happen.
    Try and imagine JP II as pope-emeritus.
    Or even B16 as pope-emeritus. They will still cast a shadow. The new pope will always looks like a novice … even a apprentice … pope by name only etc. etc.
    That is why poor Celestine V (#193), the God-Father of conclaves, a hugely underrated pope (and Paul VI (#263) should have taken lessons from him about crossing all your ‘t’s and dotting all your ‘i’s), ended up in prison.
    Thank you. All the best.

  10. Darien,
    With the over 80 I was being somewhat provocative to stimulate thought and discussion. You are probably right that 80, given the non-elector ‘stigma,’ probably has become an invisible line.
    Darien, I am in the same boat as you with Ouellet. I have been plugging him too … as I have Barbarin.

    It is the longevity that suddenly hits you. In 2008, when I first did my papabili list the pope 81. Suddenly, today, he is 83 and you begin to realize … especially after somebody commented on this blog … that he, like his brother, might easily live to be 89.

    Again, we don’t know. The next pope probably could easily be in the 75-77 bracket … keeping in mind that this pope was elected at 78.

    Thank you, Darien. All the best.

  11. Indeed what to do with a living ex-pope. A bit like, BUT FAR MORE DANGEROUS, than living, ex-US presidents? Now, the US presidents have the 2 term-limit (or 2-and-half term limit if someone steps in as vice-president in the second half of the term). But remember Teddy Roosevelt, the YOUNGEST person to become US President. At first he decided not to run for a third term in 1908, but burried his successor Taft by running as a third candidate in 1912 (with one Republican and one ex-Republican, a Democrat won, i.e. Wooodrow Wilson).
    That same Taft was the last ex-Presindent to hold an important office. He was Chief Justice (1921-1930). Before the Civil War many ex-presidents took active part in politics, as senators, representatives or governors. So much about the US. But let us not be US-centric. Don’t we have Putin-Batman and Medvedev-Robin? So, who is truly in charge?

  12. Marko, my friend,
    YOU never cease to amaze me! OK, so we now know you are the son of two MDs. So all the clever genes were passed on. You grasp of papal lore and history has always impressed me. You have excellent command of English. Now I see that YOU know more about American history than 90% of Americans! Wow. Impressive. Keep it up. The world needs people like you. You made my day.
    Yes, ex-presidents. Just recently Jimmy Carter made a jab at the current president.
    But, just think … we could (hypothetically) have two living ex-popes and a current pope. WOW.
    Like I said, they would have to be ‘exiled’ AND THEY won’t agree to that.
    Plus, if Benedict XVI retires … will he specify a WHOLE NEW wardrobe for ex-popes with ermine, diamond studded pins, gold chains … Will he still wear white … or off-white?
    Thanks, Marko. Continue your quest for knowledge and expertise.

  13. I am posting this at the behest of Father Anthony (whose posts and pictures appear on this blog) who, due to time pressures, send me these lines in an e-mail:

    “I will also send a piece on the older papabili. I think your points are interesting, but I hope you are wrong.
    I cannot think it would be good for the Church to have an ever older leadership.
    It is hard to explain why at 80 years of age you are too old to vote for a new Pope but still able to be the Pope!
    Either we allow all the very old gentlemen to vote (surely not a good idea?) or the Popes decide to retire at 80.
    Can a group of men in their seventies and eighties really be attuned to the needs of a younger generation?
    It would remind me of the Kremlin towards the end of the Communist era just before Gorbachev took over.
    Let’s hope not.”

    Father Anthony, STL,
    Sussex, U.K.

  14. In case you folks haven’t seen this, the Vatican just issued this:

    VATICAN CITY, 11 DEC 2010 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today released the following communique on the subject of U.S. State Department documents published by the website Wikileaks.

    “Without venturing to evaluate the extreme seriousness of publishing such a large amount of secret and confidential material, and its possible consequences, the Holy See Press Office observes that part of the documents published recently by Wikileaks concerns reports sent to the U.S. State Department by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

    “Naturally these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself, nor as exact quotations of the words of its officials. Their reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind”.

    OP/ VIS 20101213 (140)

  15. Dear Father Anthony,
    Thank you for sharing your unique insights of Paul VI (#263) with us. I noticed that you were too modest to mention that you had indeed met with him once and had seen him often … not to mention participating in his 1976 post consistory Mass.
    From all of my research, he came across as a caring, decent pope, who tried to do his best — though hampered by a timorous streak, which no doubt was exacerbated by his knowledge that he had detractors, plus Cardinal Siri to contend with. The ‘rumors’ and ‘allegations’ most likely made all of this worse.
    Yes, the 1963 conclaves was said to have been tense … with the famous outburst Cardinal Testa [page 259, The Next Pope].
    That he made the over-80 decision, in 1970, to preclude 25 elderly cardinals is without doubt.
    MY supposition that this measure might have been a stop-gap temporary one is based on many factors.
    Father, you do realize that this 1970 ruling was the FIRST change to the papal election electorate made since 1179! It is also the only such electorate-related decision that was not made within the context of a synod.
    We hear that in 1973, 3 years after the 80-year cut off, he considered permitting non-cardinals to vote in the conclave — until Cardinal Siri had another conniption. [Father did you have any dealings with Cardinal Siri or Cardinal Luciani during your three year stay in Rome?]
    Though he never codified it, he NEVER created any cardinals over 80. Creating over-80 cardinals was a John Paul II (#265) innovation.
    Now this begs the question, did Paul VI ever envisage that his REAL successor would be an arch conservative, i.e., John Paul II? Paul VI implemented the over-80 rule to facilitate the election of a soul that might further his … albeit diluted … promotion of Vatican II goals. But, we ended up John Paul II after a short hiatus.
    What would have happened if John Paul I (#264) had been able to reign for a decade … as one would have hoped, given that he was only ~66 years old. Would he have changed the 80 year rule?

    Time itself has taken a toll on the over-80 rule. The first is the increase in longevity due to modern drugs, diagnostics and care. 80 in 1970 has to be AT LEAST 85 by today’s standards. The second reason is the Domus. With the Domus, with its private bathrooms, and comfortable beds, the onerousness surely has been mitigated.

    As ever Father, you raise very good points. Retirement age. I am not sure whether this pope will retire. We will see.

    Yes, lets get other opinions. Thank you, Father. Much appreciated.

  16. The wisdom of the 80 rule is certainly not the onerousness of participating in the conclave – modern medicine and modern conveniences (incl. travel) have taken care of that. It is the wisdom of the choices the “old guard” would make, the same reason you admit was P6’s reason for implementing it in the first place. And that reason is still valid, although maybe not as effective as P6 might have hoped given the elections of JP2 and B16. But, if 80+ cardinals were allowed to vote, could we have had even more conservative popes elected? That’s the question.

  17. What an IRONIC statement by the pope … I think there is even an English idiom about this that starts with: ‘The pot calling …’

  18. It seems than nobody countered the thesis of not much danger of a subversive ex-Pope, especially since they would retire at a significantly older ages than US presidents. i do. Nowadays, it would be enough for an ex-pope living in a monastery in Jerusalem (my clear allusion to Cardinal Martini) just to be interviewed by some journalist and throw some fire e.g. on an new encyclical of a present pope. Just several sentences. It would cause much harm, a the press would certainly give that sentences as much attention as possible.

  19. Marko,
    Do you think an ex-pope will be allowed to reside in Jerusalem?
    How much coverage did Bill Clinton’s appearance in the White House press briefing room on Friday get in Croatia?
    All the best.

  20. Marko,
    A few points. I have always said that an ex-pope, unless he took an absolute vow of silence, can always be potentially dangerous. Even the vow of silence may not be enough. If he is even caught on video raising his eyebrows at some news about the current pope — that would be interpreted as an issue.
    Following your comment, I got thinking. An ex-pope, especially if Benedict XVI was to resign (which I think is HIGHLY UNLIKELY despite what he has said in his interviews), could not reside anywhere other than ‘Italy’! Why. Immunity! An ex-pope wil no longer be a Head of State. So he could be perused by other countries. The current pope can protect an ex-pope as long as he is on Vatican City ‘soil’ — which can include areas granted extraterritorial rites, a la Castel Gandolfo and the Lateran, per the 1929 Lateran Treaty. So forget Jerusalem or Martha’s Vineyard. An ex-pope will want to be very close to the Vatican. [Note that the pope moved his elder brother to Castel Gandolfo within the last year. He is untouchable while he is there.]
    There is also the issue of security. Ex-presidents do get security. An ex-pope will also require security.
    All said … I am skeptical that we will see any ex-popes in MY LIFETIME … but that isn’t saying much. Maybe in yours. I really can’t see Benedict XVI resigning, not with all that is still swirling around him about the clergy sex abuse scandal. But, I could be wrong.
    All the best. Cheers.

  21. Anura, I confess I did not notice any appearance of Bill Clinton in the White House. However, I know that his chief diplomat Richard Holbrooke died on Monday and that Clinton gave a statement. is this the statement you are talking about? Holbrooke was mentioned in all news in the region because he was the main architect of the Bosnian peace treaty negotiated in Dayton, OH, with Croatia being one of the signatories. Considering diplomatic immunity and the immunity of parliament representatives, former Croatian leader of the opposition (2000-2003) and Prime Minister (2003-2009), Ivo Sanader, was arrested in Austria under the Interpol warrant. He is accused for being the initiator of a business transaction where he pushed many state agencies to have their PR business be done by a company owned by his friend. The prices were several percents more expensive than other companies would do and this money was taken by mr. Sanader, his friend and (some) agency chiefs. Sometimes money was also paid for no real work done. My Sanader unexplicably resigned in 2009, giving no reason for doing this. It is know clear that this was a result of foreign pressure, since Croatia tries to enter the EU. However, Mr. Sanader remained an MP and had an immunity (unless being suspended by the Parliament), and, as a former Prime Minister, he also had a right to hold a diplomatic passport for additional 2 years. Thus, when on December 9, about 8 AM, a warrant for arresting Sanader was signed by the Chief Prosecutor and faxed to the Parliament (asking for his immunity to be removed), Sanader was quickly informed by his leakers (either within the Parliament or the Prosecution Service) and at 11 AM he crossed the Croatian-Slovenian border. Croatian police could not arrest him. Of course, agents were sent to follow him. The Parliament suspended his immunity at 2 PM and by the evening the Interpol sent an international warrant. Sanader seamingly tried to reach the US (a complicated procedure of extradition) by the US cancelled his visa. Sanader was subsequently arrested in Austria on the following day and a complicated extradition process will start. He allegedly tried to enter Slovenia (back from Austria, where he may also be prosecuted due to his involvement in the illegal dealings of the Hypo Bank Austria, which also operated in Croatia) to make a show while being arrested in Slovenia at Croatian-Slovenian border (the Slovenians would have been forced to arrest him at the border crossing as soon as he would have shown them his passport). BTW, he has three brothers and a sister. The sister is a nun and one of the brother’s is priest, the parish pastor of a presently less important but historically very prominent church near Split. It is the church where the medieval croatian kings were burried (thus a very prestigious parish).

  22. Hi Anura,

    Thanks for referring me to this post, I just read comments about the ex-Popes. Cheers. 🙂

    Have you considered about a non-Cardinal Papabile? Someone who is still only an Archbishop?

    I read somewhere about the 1958 election that Montini, while still Archbishop of Milan (but not a Cardinal), got some votes at the conclave.

  23. Sean,
    I have considered non-cardinals and summarily dismissed it … as ‘pigs will fly’ scenario … page 5, ‘The Next Pope.’
    Two key reasons. This is an exceptionally ‘conservative’ electorate. They will be reluctant to violate 600 year old traditions. Plus, the last non-cardinal elected caused major problems.
    2nd: With a 201 strong College we have more diversity than ever before in terms of demographics.
    Not sure whether Montini got any votes. We do know that at ONE of the pre-conclave General Congregations, Siri blew his gasket (yet again) when the possibility of voting for non-cardinal Montini was mentioned. He is said to have smashed his hand so hard on the table that he broke his episcopal ring. He might have been better served to have used his shoe, Khrushchev style — but he might have been wearing soft soled slippers.
    Are you familiar with the Siri Thesis?

  24. Yes, that is the Siri Thesis and I have explained in my book HOW this could not have been.
    If he took the name Gregory XVII … he could ONLY do that after he said ‘accepto.’ At that point he was POPE. The Freemasons nor the CIA had earthly power over him at that point. He was Pope, only answerable to God. So who could have de-throned him?
    Thank you.
    Are working on an answer to MY question on God and which is HIS religion …
    as well as Will’s hope that this small domestic schism with the Orthodox church will be healed in THIS POPE’s lifetime … obviously with YOU having to pledge allegiance to the pope. I am not sure which hand you put over your heart at that ceremony. But, IF I am alive, I am hobbling into St. Peter’s to see this. It will be quite a sight. I assume you could get me tickets. It will be packed.
    Thank you.
    All the best.

  25. Dear Father,
    NO hurry. Please take your time. I know you are busy. This is NOT a priority. I have waited a long time for these answers … a day, a week, a month will not make a difference.
    Father, I got 5 copies of the Siri Thesis comment. Yes, in 3 of them the ‘D’ in ‘Dear’ had got chopped off. I fixed that. But, I deleted the extra copies. I hope that was OK.
    All the best Father. Take care.

  26. I have done alot of reading regarding the Siri thesis. What I understood was there was contact with the outside world during the 1958 conclave. Siri (Pope Gregory) had his family’s lives threatened if he took the papcy, and, thus he steepped aside. However he was pope already|! So when John XXIII was anounced as pope he wasn’t pope. He was an anti-pope. There was the question that the smoke out of the Sisteen Chapel was white. That the stage was set for a pope to appear to the crowd, and, that cardinals were seen in the windows waiting, which would not be permitted if they were still in Conclave. However nobody appeared. Also after John XXIII was made “pope” he held all the cardinals in Conclave an extra day. However I have read that JP2 and Benedit had done this and it doesn’t mean much. The theory is that Siri was pope until his death,and, John XXIII, Paul VI, JP1, and, JP2 were all anti-popes. Does anybody else have more on the Siri thesis? I would love to hear about it.

  27. A perfect example of a pope being elected that is not an elector would be Sodano. I consider him a strong canidate.

  28. 1/ First link.

    2/ Second link.

    In your list of POSSIBLE anti-popes you don’t mention the current pope. Was his election OK? He too kept the cardinals over for one additional night … but this time in the comfort of the Domus.

    Thank you.

  29. If there were to be an election in the next 2 years, Cardinal Sodano, of the THREE Titles, will make a wonderful pope … in reality no older than what the current pope would have been (just a tad). He might not get the Austrian count’s vote, but as the Dean, an Italian, he could do well.
    Thank you.

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