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.
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.
Now lets look at when the first death occurred:
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.