Oct 072011

Next cardinal creating consistory with Anura Gurugeby Anura Guruge

As ‘next consistory’ anticipation starts to pique, if not peak per se, I like to calculate the available vacancies by hand, from first principles, to make sure that none have fallen through the cracks since the last consistory.

To this end, I already did a quick sanity check on the suburbicarian sees, on October 6, 2011, to see the status there vis-à-vis Cardinal Bishops, though we all know that there are no vacancies at that top tier at present — and these much prized vacancies tend to be filled very quickly.

Oriental Rites Cardinal Patriarchs, as of 1965, are not assigned a Roman title. Instead they retain their original patriarchal see. So vacancies are not an issue when it comes to creating Cardinal Patriarchs. We currently have 4 Cardinal Patriarchs, three of them older than 80, and thus non-electors. In total there are eight Oriental Rites sees that can have patriarchs. So in theory it would be possible to have double the current number of Cardinal Patriarchs.

The Cardinal Numbers

Prior to the cardinal creating consistory of November 20, 2010, the last to date, the pope, Benedict XVI (#266) established one new title, viz. S. Corbiniano, and one new deaconary, viz. S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane.

This means we currently have 142 Roman church titles for Cardinal Priests, and 64 Roman deaconries for Cardinal Deacons.

As of October 6, 2011 we had 150 Cardinal Priests and 33 Cardinal Deacons.

But, the corpulent, now 83-year old, Dean of the College, the cheer-leader for the besmirched Legion of Christ, Sodano, hold three (3), yes three, titles. As Dean, by Law, he is expected to hold two titles, that of Ostia (the customary prerogative of the Dean) and the suburbicarian see he held prior to being elected Dean. So he has Albano as well. That is fine and as it should be. But, Sodano, uniquely, was also permitted to retain the title, that of S. Maria Nuova, that he held as a Cardinal Priest prior to his promotion, in 1994, to higher order — after just two years as a cardinal. He holds S. Maria Nuova in commendam (in trust). It means that he, uniquely, gets three beneficiaries — though he is now retired.

Sodano’s in commendam in essence equates to having a virtual Cardinal Priest — in that it too reduces the available titles by one.

Then we have the pro hac vice titles. Following Polish Cardinal Deskur’s death on September 3, 2011, we had 21 pro hac vice titles.

As it happens all 21 of the pro hac vice allocations are deaconries being used as titles. This does not have to always be the case. A title can be given to a Cardinal Deacon pro hac vice.

So the 21 pro have vice titles means that 21 of today’s Cardinal Priests have deaconries as opposed to church titles.

Santa Maria Nova at popes and papacy by Anura Guruge

Santa Maria Nova, Sodano's 3rd 'bene'


Titles in total = 142          Deaconries in total = 64

Cardinal Priests = 150        Cardinal Deacons = 33

in commendam = 1

pro hac vice deaconries as titles = 21

The Math


titles = 142

Cardinal Priests = 150

pro hac vice = 21

Cardinal Priests with actual titles = Cardinal Priests less pro hac vice = 150 – 21 = 129

in commendam = 1

that adds another one to the title count, hence = 130

vacancies = 142 – 130 = 12


deaconries = 64

pro hac vice = 21

reduces available deaconries to  = 64 – 21 = 43

Cardinal Deacons = 33

vacancies = 43 – 33 = 10

TOTAL VACANCIES, titles and deaconries = 22

That just happens to coincide with the number of cardinal electors the pope could create if the next cardinal creating consistory is held in ‘late’ November 2012. But, that is a coincidence and insignificant.

We typically have 8 cardinals die per year. So we can expect the vacancies to be close to 30 come November 2012.

In reality, given pro hac vice the title/deaconry split doesn’t really matter. What really matters is the total number of vacancies, 22 today and most likely up to 30 twelve months from now. Plus, as he did last year, the pope can freely create more titles and deaconries.

If 8 cardinals die prior to November 18, 2012, and the pope creates 30 new cardinals, the College would be at 215 — a new record, by far, the 203 following the 2010 consistory being the current high-water mark.

Cardinal vacancies in Rome per Anura Guruge


  4 Responses to “Vacancies In Rome For New Cardinals”

  1. Sir, I must take issue with the notion that, with respect to the Cardinal-Bishops, “these much prized vacancies tend to be filled very quickly.” Please note the major delay in filling the See of Palestrina, which was vacant from May 13, 2008, until February 24, 2009. By my count, that is more than 9 months.
    Thanks for considering my counter-point.

  2. Thanks. Good point.

  3. How you count that if 8 cardinals dies and Benedict create 30 new then college will be count at 205?

  4. Did I get that wrong. It was late at night. It would be 215. Sorry. I will fix that. THANKS. I wanted to make sure whether anybody read the post to the end. Smile.

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