VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A correction in the birth date of Cardinal Henryk Roman Gulbinowicz, retired archbishop of Wroclaw, Poland, has decreased the number of electors who could vote for a new pope.
The change is due to the fact that Gulbinowicz altered his personal data during the Nazi occupation to avoid being sent to a forced labor camp.
The correction was published in the latest edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, presented to John Paul II on Jan. 31.
According to the new version, Henryk Gulbinowicz was born on Oct. 17, 1923, and not on Oct. 17, 1928, as stated in previous biographies.
At present, the Church has 183 cardinals, including 119 electors under age 80 who could participate in a conclave to elect a new pope.
Cardinal Gulbinowicz explained to the Polish Catholic agency KAI that he changed his date of birth in 1942, during the German occupation of the Vilnius region, which was then part of Poland. He said he did so at the suggestion of an officer of the independent Polish army, which fought against the Nazi and Soviet occupations.
“Changing the date of birth was a form of escape,” Cardinal Gulbinowicz explained. “I must add here that I was not the only one who did it. My friends of the same age, or similar age, also were able to save themselves thanks to these alterations, done by people who wanted to protect us Poles from being sent as forced labor to Germany.”
Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of Wroclaw in 1976. John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 1985.