Record Number of Elector Cardinals

But Several Will Turn 80 Within a Few Months

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2001 ( After John Paul II´s announcement today, the College of Cardinals will have a record number potential electors of a pope in the event of a conclave.

John Paul II announced 37 new cardinals, which would bring the number of potential electors to 128. When the Pontiff creates the new cardinals Feb. 21, he will exceed by eight the limit of 120 elector cardinals established by Paul VI, a fact confirmed by John Paul II himself. But that situation won´t last for long, since a number of cardinals will be 80 years old within the next few months.

The new cardinals named today by John Paul II include 7 Italians (one non-elector) 3 Americans (one non-elector), 2 Portuguese, 2 Argentines, 2 Brazilians, 2 Indians, 2 French (one non-elector), 2 Germans (one non-elector).

The rest of the countries represented among the new cardinals with just one member are Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Honduras, Venezuela, Vietnam, Poland, Syria, Ireland, Lithuania, Ivory Coast, Great Britain and Egypt (the latter is non-elector).

With the new consistory, the Church will have 178 cardinals, in addition to «two in pectore,» whose names have not yet been revealed by John Paul II; 128 will be electors in an possible conclave. Fifty will be 80 years old, including Cardinal Antonio Javierre whose birthday is on that date.

Of the total of cardinals, one was created by John XXIII, 23 by Paul VI, and 154 by John Paul II (in addition to the two «in pectore»).

The oldest cardinals are Corrado Bafile (born 1903), Franz Koening (1905) and Giuseppe Maria Sensi (1907). The youngest are Vinko Puljic (1945), Christoph Schoenborn (1945) and Crescenzio Sepe (1944).

During the 20th century, 583 ecclesiastics from 79 countries entered the College of Cardinals. Since the 12th century, when the Popes stabilized the college, there have been a total of about 3,000 cardinals.

The youngest cardinal of the 20th century was Archbishop Leone de Skrebensky of Prague (created at the age of 38 years and 4 days), followed by Secretary of State Rafael Merry del Val (38 years and 29 days). The oldest cardinal of the last century at the time of his naming was Albanian Mikel Koliqi (92 years), followed by Jesuit theologian Ives Congar (91).

Among 20th-century cardinals, three are venerated as blessed: Archbishops Ildefonso Schuster of Milan, Italy; Marcelo Spinola y Maestre of Seville, Spain; and Alojzije Stepinac of Zagreb.

At least 12 cardinals of the 20th century have causes of beatification under way, including Josef Beran, Emile Biayenda, Terence Cooke, Elia dalla Costa, Rafael Merry del Val, Clemens August von Galen, Angel Herrera y Oria, August Hlond, Jozsef Mindszenty, Carlo Raffaello Rossi, Joseph Slipy and Stefan Wyszynski.

The last lay cardinal was named by Pius IX in 1858. He was a Roman jurist named Teodolfo Mertel, author of the Statute of the Pontifical State. Now, in order to be named a cardinal, the person must be at least a priest. John XXIII established that cardinals should be bishops; therefore, following their nomination, the priests on the list will be consecrated bishops.

Cardinals are named «in pectore,» secretly, for reasons of prudence. In 1976, for example, Paul VI considered Cardinal Tomasek of Prague «in pectore,» because of the political situation in what was then Czechoslovakia, under the Communist regime. In 1979, John Paul II created Chinese Cardinal Kung Pin-Mei «in pectore.» He revealed his name in 1991.

Information on the College of Cardinals up to today can be consulted on

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