Five observations on the new cardinals

National Catholic Reporter

by John L Allen Jr on Jan. 06, 2012 NCR Today

Naming new cardinals is among the more important acts of any papacy, because the cardinals form the “electoral college” that will pick the next pope. That’s arguably even more significant this time around, given that Benedict XVI will turn 85 in April – and although there’s no sign of any health crisis, at that age it’s natural to begin thinking about what might come next.

Here are five quick observations about the 22 new cardinals named today by Benedict XVI, including 18 who are under 80 and therefore eligible to participate in a future conclave.

The consistory, when today’s nominees will actually enter the College of Cardinals, is set for Rome Feb. 18-19.

Bring on the Italians

It was already a commonplace observation about Benedict XVI that in some ways he has “re-Italianized” the Vatican and the papacy, perhaps a product of his comfort level with Italian ecclesial culture after spending almost the last thirty years in Rome.

Certainly today’s appointments will reinforce those impressions. Prior to today’s nominations, there were 24 Italians among 108 voting-age cardinals, representing 22 percent of the total. With seven Italians among the 18 cardinal electors named today, their share will rise to 25 percent, fully one-quarter of the number of cardinals who will elect the next pope. That’s by far the largest national bloc in the College of Cardinals; the next largest is the Americans, who will have 18 cardinals in total and 11 eligible to vote for the pope.

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