VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is now also the new dean of the College of Cardinals, the Vatican Press Office announced.
The election, approved by the Pope, was carried out by a group of cardinals — those who belong to the Order of Bishops.
The Bavarian cardinal replaces Benin’s Cardinal Bernardin Gantin in the post. The latter, who is 80, asked the Holy Father to relieve him of this responsibility, which requires residence in Rome, so that he can return to his African homeland.
John Paul II also approved the election of the college’s new subdean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.
According to the Code of Canon Law (Canon 352), the “dean presides over the College of Cardinals. When he is unable to do so, the subdean takes his place. The dean, or the subdean, has no power of governance over the other cardinals, but is considered as first among equals.”
The dean has the duty to inform the other cardinals of the Pope’s death (see “Universi Dominici Gregis,” No. 19), presides over assemblies of cardinals, and convokes assemblies, including conclaves.
In a conclave, the dean leads the voting and asks the newly elected if he is willing to accept the election.