Mar 232011

by Anura Guruge

This is a follow-up to the March 21 post that looked at the trends from 2005 to 2011 — with a cursory look for ‘anomalies’ [e.g., first death on December 9 in 1903 and no deaths in 1953] going back to 1900.

This post concentrates on the 62 year period since 1950 — 1958 being the year that John XXIII (#262) overrode the 372 year cap on the size of the College at 70.

That this year have gone into Spring in the Northern Hemisphere without a death of a cardinal is indeed noteworthy, if not unusual. In the last 62 years we have only gone this far 17 times (27%). On average, over that period, the first death occurs by March 10.

During these 62 years we have only had 1 instance of more than one cardinal dying on the same day, i.e., August 1, 1988. We have only had 7 instances of two cardinals dying on successive days, the last, however, quite recently: December 30 & 31, 2009. There has only been 2 instances of cardinals dying two days apart. [

December is the worst month of cardinal deaths. 39 of the 367 cardinals that died during this 62 period died in December. August is the next worst at 37, with August 1 being the day when most deaths have taken place — 5. But, there have also been 4 deaths on August 2. This is the only ‘4’ day.

Within reason there appears to be a correlation between the size of the College and the number of cardinal deaths per year. The average for the 62 years is 6 years, while that for the period 2005 – 2011 is 7.7. On per decade basis, the average per year for the decade 2000-2009, at 8.1 deaths/year, was higher than that for any prior decade. This does make sense. The College is bigger than ever before and we have more older [especially over 80 cardinals] than ever before.

cardinal deaths by decade by Anura Guruge

At the average of 6 per year, we have had a cardinal die every 60 days (or so) — so, basically, one every 2 months. Last years rate of one every 48 days was, thus, a bit high. But again, the College is bigger than it ever used to be.

When cardinals died 1950 to now by Anura Guruge

Now lets look at when the first death occurred:

First death of the year for a cardinal by Anura Guruge

For those who were wondering if there is a correlation between when the first death occurs and the number of deaths per year … I overlaid the a graph of the number of deaths/year on top of the above. Yes, you will notice some correlation, especially when we have very late first deaths.


  31 Responses to “Trends re. Cardinal Deaths, 1950 to 2011 (62 Years)”

  1. Anura,
    being a “persona ingrata” now I am quite certain that you immediately will delete my commentary, never mind – it is your blog, you decide. However I have my remarks concerning your explanations to the “death statistics” of the College of Cardinals: You state that in 1903 there died just one cardinal. Given that you begin to count from Pius X onwards this could be accepted but in an absolute sense this is not true – the same year died two more cardinals yet under Leo XIII.
    Even more interesting is your remark that “…we have only had 2 instances of more than one cardinal dying on the same day: October 16, 2007…”. According to your words it can be supposed that you regard the Polish bishop Ignacy Jez as cardinal…as far as I know in 2007 B XVI announced the consistory (to be held on November 24) at the end of the General Audience on Wednesday, October 17, 2007. But at this time Jez was already dead (yes, it is true – the pope remarked that he had the intention to create the Polish bishop a cardinal and it seems that he was already informed about that) – this can be read at
    I point this out relating to our dispute on the “Hossu case” which resulted in a rift only because I dared to insist on the fact that the Romanian could be regarded as cardinal while this opinion displeased you completely. And now you even go one step further by numbering the Polish bishop Jez who was already dead even before his creation could be announced (and therefore in the best case can be called a “would-be cardinal”) among the members of the College of Cardinals. Summing up all this the old Latin proverb comes up my mind: “Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi”…
    All the best !

  2. I guess I will have to fix these. Thanks. You know whose data I was using. I didn’t check each entry. I FORGET that … breaks off years by Pope! My fault.

    I do NOT class Jez as a cardinal. So I will change that. Definitely. Changes all the stats too. Never mind. Thanks.

  3. I considered data from 1758 Conclave…because in 1740 Conclave a 12 years old cardinal didn’t participate (a different era).

    There a significant trend for average age: in 1774/75 the average was 59.7, in 1848 was 59.5 but from 1878 on has always been over 66. The oldest average age was in 1963 Conclave (the last before the introduction of the 80 years old limit) with 72.5, but in 2005 Conclave we got close with 71.6.

    Even more significant the trend for the minimum age of a participating cardinal. The last cardinal voting in a Conclave in his 40’s was Landazuri Ricketts in 1963, the last cardinal voting in his 30’s was Riario Sforza in 1848 (at 35.5). The youngest ever since 1758 was Stuart in 1758 with 33.2. On the converse, in the last Conclave the youngest was Erdo with 52.8 (the maximum age for the youngest cardinal since 1758).

    If you are interested, I’ll let you develop the chapter, maybe comparing the age of voters and the age of the elected pope. Also you might find a correlation in duration of the previous pontificate/age of the pope and age of voters at the following conclave (since a pope might tend to promote his generation fellows to cardinalate: the older he gets, the older his cardinals are).

  4. I like your Irish name.
    My very first Golden had a very Italian name. Shamrock.
    For those that are wondering … ‘Bernardo’ … wanted to extend the Cardinal Death trends to look at the ages of cardinals at various conclaves. He did the first few. So that is the genesis of this comment.
    Yes, I am working on how old the popes were when they died.
    THANK YOU. All the best. I am still laughing about your name.

  5. Thank you. I think I fixed it ALL. I even got Salvador to update his Web pages. So I think we are all in sync. I am GLAD you pointed these out to me. Louis Epstein caught the 1988 quasi-cardinal. But, the 2007 went unnoticed, as did the 1903 cut-off. THANKS.

  6. Some additional statistical details to the period between 1950 and 2011

    oldest cardinal at the moment of his death: Corrado Bafile (Italy) – born July 4, 1903; died February 3, 2005
    youngest cardinal at the moment of his death: Emile Biayenda (Republic of Congo) – born in 1927 (month and day unknown); assassinated March 23, 1977

    longest officiating cardinal at the moment of his death: Manuel Goncalves Cerejeira (Portugal) – created December 16, 1929; died August 2, 1977
    shortest officiating cardinal at the moment of his death: Jean Balland (France) – created February 21, 1998; died March 1, 1998

  7. Thank you. Very useful. I am compiling some stats too. Hopefully will post in the next 24 hours. Cheers.

  8. Hello Anu
    I saw the video clip of Lawrence O’Donnells comment on Glenn Beck’s “end of the world” comment. This video was coincidental with me, because O’Donnell ventured as far as to mention the “fiction” behind the Book of Revelation. The Book of Rev. does have this initial impression, obviously because Saint John was told to write down what he saw or observed by a very powerful Holy Spirit.

    The Book is very real to me and to me is a clear depiction of what is to come, as anything from the Holy Spirit is not to be denounced but to be entrusted to a proper time within which it will unfold. Even Theologians, Catholic or Christian alike have made the mistake of not seeing the Holy Spirit talking but rather see the “mind of a lunatic”…how sad is faith in many such variations to even question and mock the trust and gifts from the Holy Spirit.

    O’Donnell made remarks to the dragon and other images and symbols in a manner that is even equally questionable in the mind of Beck, O’Donnell, you, me and everyone else. I have attempted to push this angle throughout my book (As I Passed Him: a prophecy within our times), and that is that dreams are not fiction but are real and meaningful but not to the conscious mind that has been imposed on us by modern man. To me things will unfold just as God intends them even before the eyes of proud men who believe as such. To me Beck and O’Donnell are one in the same but one simply raising the question and the other following up with an extended version. Were all lesser in faith than a mustard seed so we all fall into the basket to God who is soon to call us all to make a choice.

    I think you will find my attachment of personal notes that I have decided to include in my timetable which are now reflected in my book. The timetable puts Book of Revelation citations along with the timetable’s years. I have cut and pasted the section of my Ch 4 timetable. Anyway this coincides with the video clip in that to me the Revelations is real and of which can be better substantiated by , yes, dream analysts and/or Jungian Psychology that is of a proper perspective and not a “modern man” perspective, for this to me is not from archaic man or natural man but again the stained perspective of a conscious “modern man”.

    Also, back to the stats question. From my angle, there may or may not be a significant coincidence with the death of Cardinals in the specific but on a collective spiritual perspective and from a broader elderly and wiser man perspective you will find that men of tradition and genuine love for God and creation you will find a similar pattern, as if God see’s only through His eyes not man’s. Man or men whose natural lives are drawing to a close, that is, that are more in tune with their natural self of spirit and physical are one in God’s eyes as He or the Holy Spirit does not discriminate. But how many are there out there, they are wiser and the natural humility imposed by old age strips them of their vanity and are more fit to be heard by the younger crowds and also with worthiness now ready to go before God. My point again is that from the stats perspective and synchronicity angle you will find that all natural things are being drawn into some funnel or in a concentrated fashion from earthquakes to weather patterns, to turbulence in human kind and even an agitation amongst the elders who may have a more natural tuning into the world around them and is interpreted as their end as nearing as all falls into this natural and uncontrollable funnel.

    Anyway, I guess I did mean to go on like this but please excuse me if I got off track some. I hope I’m not causing a riot with this but just an angle from which maybe we can see differently.

  9. I am posting a PART of the Ch 4 time table Juan refers to in his comment. This is Juan’s work. [I am just transcribing it here since I have it in a Word document.]

    2009: I believe we are presently in the first seal period which perhaps began sometime after WWII and is now drawing to an end. A section entitled “A Period Just Past” in “The Tribulation Text” in Chapter 5 may relate to this phase.

    2012: The second seal, a red horse of war and instability I believe will be unleashed in and around this or these years.
    2014: The third seal, a black horse of wide spread famine and depression will be unleashed in and around these years.
    2015: The first half of the tribulation begins and will last 3 and a half years. During this time the two witnesses will begin to I believe Revelation 12 is in the 1st half of the tribulation period, “She was soon to give birth and the pains and suffering of childbirth made her cry out.” As if meaning warning, proclaiming, now, near or proclaim God’s message. The faithful will be ready and receptive given the times and the possibility
    that it truly may be that Christ is returning.

  10. Concerning the cardinals in their forties when participating in a conclave it could be added that in June 1963 besides Landázuri Ricketts there was the German Julius Döpfner (born August 26, 1913). As for the conclave of August 25-26, 1978 among the participants was the Filipino Jaime L. Sin (born August 31, 1928) who then was the only representant of the “under fifties”.

  11. Cardinal Sin’s name has always fascinated me. A great name, especially for a cardinal. Not sure I could pull it off ‘Anura Sin’ but I know Jamie pulled it off like a champ. It must have been a riot when he was Father Sin and then Bishop Sin.

  12. The election as Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of a man who will not turn 50 until May 2020 and will certainly be a Cardinal by then opens the door to a new elector-under-50 unless Benedict XVI lives as long as Leo XIII.I have tables of who has been the longest serving cardinal back to the 17th century,but those who narrowly missed that distinction while serving longer than others who did hold it are not listed,

  13. Louis,
    Unless you have them already posted PLEASE send me the lists … and as with your past lists … I will put on the lipstick, nail polish and a nice gloss and post them UNDER YOUR name.
    P.S., I sent YOU a pdf. Dwarf planets.

  14. It would be interesting to compare the ages of the cardinal electors and the age of the person elected.
    I note that after Pius IX (32 years) they chose Cardinal Pecci (68, I think) and thought to be in frail health, who lived for 25 years. After Pius XII (19 years) they chose Cardinal Roncalli (76) who lived just four and a half years.
    After John Paul II (26 + years) they chose Cardinal Ratzinger (78) who has now served for almost six years, and seems to be in good health. What do the figures suggest?

  15. As far as “end times” go,please consult the regrettably no-longer-update and one of his indefatigable sources for disproven predictions, (just look through her archives,but she keeps coming up with new Rapture and Tribulation dates,real soon now!!)

  16. Dear Father,
    Yes, father, I will get to this. Huge backlog of pope/cardinal-related projects on my plate at the moment. Working on a table Louis Epstein sent me of the most senior cardinal in the College at any one time. Might have found some interesting longevity stuff about John Paul II during work on that. Pope’s birthday coming up.
    But, your request is noted and has been added to my list. I have tried to find ‘kids’ who might be interested in doing some of this research. No luck.
    Thank you father. All the best.

  17. Oldest members of the College of Cardinals 1950 to 2011

    Alessandro Verde (Italy)
    * March 27, 1865, + March 29, 1958

    José Maria Caro Rodriguez (Chile)
    * June 23, 1866, + December 4, 1958

    Georges Grente (France)
    * May 5, 1872, + May 5, 1959

    Elia Dalla Costa (Italy)
    * May 14, 1872, + December 22, 1961

    Francesco Morano (Italy)
    * June 8, 1872, + July 12, 1968

    Augusto Alvaro da Silva (Brasil)
    * April 8, 1876, + August 14, 1968

    Giuseppe Pizzardo (Italy)
    * July 13, 1877, + August 1, 1970

    Paolo Giobbe (Italy)
    *January 10, 1880, + August 14, 1972

    José da Costa Nunes (Portugal)
    * March 15, 1880, + November 29, 1976

    Alberto di Jorio (Italy)
    * July 18, 1884, + September 5, 1979

    Carlos Carmelo de Vasconcellos Motta (Brasil)
    * July 16, 1890, + September 18, 1982

    Pietro Parente (Italy)
    * February 16, 1891, + December 29, 1986

    Julijans Vaivods (Latvia)
    * August 18, 1895, + May 24, 1990

    Henri de Lubac SJ (France)
    * February 20, 1896, + September 4, 1991

    Ferdinando Giuseppe Antonelli OFM (Italy)
    * July 14, 1896, + July 12, 1993

    Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei (China)
    * August 2, 1901, + March 12, 2000

    Corrado Bafile (Italy)
    * July 4, 1903, + February 3, 2005

    Johannes Willebrands (Netherlands)
    * September 4, 1909, + August 2, 2006

    Alfons Stickler SDB (Austria)
    * August 23, 1910, + December 12, 2007

    Paul Augustin Mayer (Germany)
    * May 23, 1911, + April 30, 2010

    Ersilio Tonini (Italy)
    * July 20, 1914

  18. Anura,
    as I just realized I made one “mistake” in my list: To the name Paul Augustin Mayer “OSB” would have to be added – he was a member of the Benedictine order. It would be great if you could do this when moderating my comment.
    Thank you !

  19. Missing between Morano and da Silve is de la Torre (November 15th 1873-July 31st 1968), missing between Pizzardo and Giobbe is Masella(June 29th 1879-September 30th 1970),missing between di Jorio and Motta is Caggiano (January 30th 1889-October 23rd 1979).Your list is otherwise correct since 1948,when two oldest cardinals died…the dean,Gennaro Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte,born April 10th 1851 and the oldest since 1935,died on February 16th and was briefly succeeded by Enrico Sibilia,born November 17th 1861 and died on August 4th.Note that Verde then became oldest at only 83!

  20. Are YOU talking to Father Peter of Austria (where he claims they have no Joeys)?

    So Fr. Peter is missing three names. Over to YOU, Father Peter.

    Louis, I sent YOU your list back for review. I really should do something with Fr. Peter’s list.

    But, now to Dwarf Planets, in particular Eris. I often wonder whether Eris is the Patron God of the Vatican? Cheers.

    P.S., I was reading the Amazon reviews for your buddies book and having a quiet chuckle.

  21. Father Peter,
    PLEASE refer to Louis’ comments. He says that you missed 3 other names. He tends to be right about 95% of the time when it comes to date related stuff. So …. over to you.

    Father, I sent you an e-mail. I ordered another copy of the book, BUT rather than wait for that, I am sending you my copy by FedEx. I just need to make it to a FedEx office … nearest 30 minutes away. Goal this Wednesday after some Spring skiing. Please check e-mail.

    I am so impressed that you have Windows 7. Did you upgrade from XP or just happen to get a new PC with Windows 7 installed. I like Windows 7. Huge improvement. Always glad to hear that people are on 7 rather than XP … though I still have 3 XP machines (mainly for FrontPage).

    Please check Louis’ comments. It is OK if you missed the names. Thanks. Cheers.

  22. @ Anura and Louis
    concerning the oldest cardinals: Yes – you are right, these are missing…I obviously overlooked them. Thank you for adding them.

    I got Windows 7 when I bought a new PC but as I yet told you now I have an excellent system but I am far off to be an expert in such things – I am glad when I manage to understand the fundamental functions. Concerning the books…let us hope the very best.

    Al the best !

  23. OK. Not sure what to do now. Let me get Louis’ list published. I can add the three missing names and the ages at death. I will look into that.

    The good thing is that with Windows 7 you don’t have to be an expert. It is a very forgiving operating system. After 20 years of worse than average OSs, Microsoft FINALLY delivered a fairly decent OS. If you want to get a bit more expert on Windows 7 you should, maybe at night, forgo some of your praying time and devote it instead to reading the posts on this blog … on a selective basis. [God will understand, and if anything will think even better of you].

    Kind of sad and a reflection on the interest in popes/cardinals vs. Windows 7. I haven’t done a post on that Windows 7 blog since August 2010. But, it still gets TWICE as many hits a day than this blog!


  24. My mother will probably replace her Windows XP box with a W7Pro (my recommendation because it has longer support planned than Home Premium OR Ultimate) while I stick to my FreeBSD,occasionally upgrading versions (just got the 7.4 and 8.2 CDROMs).

  25. Good move. I know that longevity is one of your hobby horses, BUT I wouldn’t really worry too much about how long MSFT will support a given version of Windows 7. I have Pro given that I thought I would be using the ‘XP sandbox’ to run FrontPage. Never got around. Got my wife an ASUS laptop for Christmas with Home Premium. Magic. Wi-Fi (secured) came up with no trouble. HomeGroup worked a treat — and continues to delight us. Networking with the other XP machines in the house is as expected. So, I am keeping her on Home Premium. Ultimate only really has the foreign language support. My 5 year old has had a Linux PC for 3 years — EduBuntu. She got a digital camera for her birthday. I haven’t tried USBing it to Linux. I assume it will work. But, I think she will most likely get my wife’s old XP laptop soon.
    Where is the table? I haven’t checked e-mail. Was watching cricket. Sri Lanka playing England in the World Cup in Colombo. In my old age life again is reverting back to normal. Cricket will always win over work.

  26. Cardinal Sin was of Chinese-parental descent.

  27. I think we all knew that and that his name had Chinese roots. Thank you.

  28. Cardinal Sin was and still is the most famous cardinal the Philippines has produced. Mainly because he was instrumental in the fall of two governments one in 1986 and one in 2001. He was also the longest serving Filipino cardinal though if Cardinal Vidal is stll alive in 5 years time then Cardinal Vidal will take that record. However the 3 living Filipino cardinals have each lived longer than the 3 deceased ones.So it goes to show that even in a country with few cardinals, they are at par with the international ageing of the cardinalate.

  29. I recall that from 1973-6,the three Portugese Cardinals,in a college of over 140,were the youngest member of the entire College,the oldest member of the entire College,and the longest-serving member of the entire College.

  30. Maybe it was only 2 Portugese cardinals which were Cardinal Ribiero and Cardinal Cerejiera. Probably Cardinal Cerejiera was both the longest serving and the oldest cardinal during that 3 year period.

  31. You are right. Jose da Costa Nunes was Portugese and the oldest cardinal during the 1973 to 1976 period

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