Cardinal Gantin, Retiring, Shrugs Off Speculation

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2002 ( Following his 80th birthday last May, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, dean of the College of Cardinals, is returning to his native Benin.

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In an interview in the latest issue of 30 Days magazine, the cardinal responds to the speculation about a possible future African pope.

«Lately, it is something frequently repeated,» he said. «Obviously any African pretension would be nonsense.»

After handing in his resignation to the Pope, Cardinal Gantin commented on the norm that impedes cardinals from participating in a conclave when they have reached 80 years of age. «It is a wise rule,» he said, «In a certain sense, a blessing.»

In response to criticisms made at times of the Roman Curia, Cardinal Gantin said, «They are often unjustified, expressed by those who don’t know the work, dedication and humility of those who work for Roman organizations.» The cardinal is also the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

The cardinal dean presides over the College of Cardinals, but has no authority over them. He is considered «first among equals.»

The new dean will be elected by those who belong to the order of cardinal-bishop. The other two orders are those of priest and deacon.

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