Changes to the College of Cardinals

NLM has some interesting information about changes to the College of Cardinals.

A little background.

The College, as I am sure you know, is still divided into the three Orders of Deacons, Priests, and Bishops.  These orders are the remnant of a practice in ancient times of the Roman tituli, which were rather like "parishes", staffed either by deacons or by priests. 

Cardinals today are assigned churches in Rome, and, though there are many more cardinals today than in ancient times, the distinctions of diaconal titles and presbyteral titles remains.  So, even though nearly all the cardinals are really bishops, they are still placed in these Orders in the College of Cardinals.  Usually the Cardinals of the Curia, when first created cardinals, are cardinal deacons, while men who are bishops or archbishops of dioceses are made cardinal priests.  For example, my old boss His Eminence Augustin Card. Mayer, now the oldest living cardinal, was at first Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for divine Worship and, as such, started in the College as a cardinal deacon assigned to the title of Sant’Anselmo (he is a Benedictine).  After 10 years, he was promoted to cardinal priest, though he stayed cardinal of Sant’Anselmo.

The Cardinal Bishops are a different matter.  These were men assigned to one of the little dioceses encircling Rome, the "suburbicarian" dioceses.  The cardinals bishops really were the ordinary bishops of those dioceses once, but in recent times the cardinals are just the titular bishops and there is an ordinary bishop assigned to the diocese.  Today, only those cardinals who fill or filled important curial positions are cardinal bishops.  For example, His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze is Cardinal Bishop of the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni and he is Prefect of the CDW.  Usually the Prefects of Congregations like Doctrine of the Faith, Bishops, etc., are promoted cardinal bishops.  Also, the Dean of the College is always a cardinal bishop, and he has two titular dioceses instead of one, for he always also has Ostia.

It has come to be the practice to "promote" a cardinal deacon who has been a cardinal deacon for some years, to the dignity of cardinal priest, although he does not thereby change his titutlar church in Rome from a diaconal title to a presbyteral title.

So now we turn to the news from NLM:

At this morning’s Ordinary Public Consistory for the Canonisation of four Beati (Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Bütler, Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception, and Narcisa of Jesus Martillo Morán), the Holy Father also elevated some Cardinals from the Order of Deacons to the Order of Priests, something which Cardinal Deacons may opt for after having belonged to the Order of Deacons for ten years, according to can. 350 § 5 of the Codex Juris Canonici. Having opted for this transition with the approval of the Holy Father, the new Cardinal Priests occupy then, within the order of Priests, the precedence they would have enjoyed had they immediately been created as Cardinal Priests (can. 350 § 6).

The cardinals who have passed from the order of Deacons to that of Priests are: – Jorge Arturo Medína Estevez – Darío Castrillón Hoyos – Lorenzo Antonetti – James Francis Stafford – Giovanni Cheli Liturgically, this means we will not see these cardinals function as Cardinal Deacons in papal Masses, with dalmatics and mitres, anymore. Since Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos was, until now, Cardinal Protodeacon (i.e. the first in the Order of Deacons), whose office it is to announce the name of the newly elected Supreme Pontiff (can. 355 § 2), this office had to be reassigned. The new Cardinal Protodeacon is His Eminence Agostino Cacciavillan, former Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States and former President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.


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  1. Stephen V. says:

    I’m a bit puzzled. I used to think that the Cardinal Protodeacon was the ranking Cardinal-Deacon under the age of 80, because of his role in the conclave and such. But – Cardinal Medina Estévez was the previous Protodeacon, and he retired as such February 23, 2007, if I’m not mistaken. I assumed that that had to do with his reaching the age of 80, which, as a matter of fact, was December 23, 2006. But Cardinal Cacciavillan is older than Cardinal Medina Estévez by four months! What’s the deal? How does one retire as Cardinal Protodeacon, if age is of no concern, all other things remaining equal? Another option, I thought, was that the Cardinal’s retirement had to do with his having been a Cardinal-Deacon for ten years, which was February 21, 2007. But then, why has his promotion to the order of Cardinal-Priests been delayed until now? Puzzling.

    Anyway, heartfelt congratulations to all Princes of the Church involved.

  2. prof. basto says:

    Interesting to note that Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, now confirmed as
    the new Cardinal Protodeacon, is no longer a Cardinal elector, and therefore,
    under the current rules on papal elections, wouldn’t be avaliable to perform
    the protodeacon’s main duty, that of announcing the name of a newly elected
    Roman Pontiff.

    So, if a Conclave – God forbid – were to take place under the current rules between today
    and 2011, Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, the senior Cardinal Deacon who is also
    a Cardinal Elector, would be the person making the announcement. Sebastiani,
    born in 1931, was named Cardinal in 2001, and will reach the 80 years old
    age limit in 2011.

    Interesting to note that in December 2006, when Cardinal Medina Estevez, then
    Protodeacon, ceased as Cardinal Elector, Pope Benedict decided to release him
    from the duties of protodeacon, naming Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos (then the
    next senior Cardinal Deacon still an Elector) to that post,
    although Medina Estevez remained (until today) Cardinal Deacon, and as such
    was senior to Castrillón in the order of appointment.

    That would seem to suggest that Pope Benedict would no longer keep
    a non-elector as protodeacon, and that, when Castrillón opted for the
    order of priests or reached the age limit, Sebastiani, the next elector
    in seniority, would become protodeacon. However, the Pope did not follow the
    same logic that presided over Medina’s release from the protodeaconship, and
    insted appointed Cacciavilan to the role.

    This appointment, however, does not
    change the fact that, under Universi Dominici Gregis, it will fall to the
    senior Cardinal Deacon elector (currently Sebastiani), and not to Cacciavillan,
    to make any announcement of a papal election.

  3. David Cheney says:

    The Cardinal Protodeacon is simply the most senior (by seniority, not age) Cardinal-Deacon. While the Protodeacon makes the public announcement of the new pope after the end of a conclave he might not (depending on his age) take part in the conclave itself.

  4. prof. basto says:

    Yes Cheney, but in 2006 that logic was broken when Medina, without being
    promoted to the order of priests, and therefore, while still the senior-
    most Cardinal Deacon, was released from the protodeaconship just because
    he was no longer a Cardinal Elector.

    Thus it came to pass that Cardinal Castrillón, the second Cardinal Deacon
    in seniority, was declared protodeacon with Medina still a Cardinal Deacon
    his senior.

  5. David Cheney says:

    Prof. Basto makes a good point. Except that UDG 89 says only “senior Cardinal Deacon” and since the conclave is over at that point (UDG 91) I see no reason why the announcement could not be made by a non-elector.

    The roles within the conclave obviously would be done by the most senior Cardinal Deacon attending.

  6. David: Actually, I don’t think the conclave is over until the Holy Father says it is over. I believe that can take place at another time, for the new Pope might want to discuss some things with the College. Also, do you have handy the Latin text of UDG?

  7. prof. basto says:

    Cheney, just to clarify. I don’t think that, under Universi Dominici Gregis,
    the Protodeacon is to make the announcement if the protodeacon is not a
    Cardinal Elector.

    The Apostolic Constitution speaks of the “senior Cardinal Deacon”, just after
    having spoken of “Cardinal Electors”:

    “Deinde, actis de more agendis, prout iubet Ordo rituum Conclavis, Cardinales electores, secundum statutas rationes, accedunt ut novo electo Summo Pontifici obsequium et oboedientiam exhibeant. Deinde gratiae Deo persolvuntur, ac demum populo exspectanti a primo Cardinalium Diaconorum, peracta electio novique Pontificis nomen nuntiantur, qui subinde ex podio Vaticanae Basilicae Apostolicam Benedictionem Urbi et Orbi impertit.”

    First Cardinal Deacon, here, seems to mean first Cardinal Deacon among the
    electors, given the context.

    I believe seniority here means seniority among the electors (just as when
    the document speaks of “junior Cardinal Deacon”, what is meant is the junior
    Cardinal Deacon in Conclave, not the junior Cardinal Deacon in seniority
    including non-electors). The junior cardinal deacon closes doors, etc.

    Also, the presidency duties of the conclave fall to the Dean only if he is
    present, otherwise the “chairmanship” of the conclave falls to the sub-dean,
    or to the next Cardinal bishop in seniority.

    And even the role of giving Episcopal Consacration to a pope-elect who is not
    yet a Bishop only falls to the Cardinal Dean (Cardinal Bishop of Ostia) if
    he is present. Otherwise, the Constitution explicitly requires that the
    Subdeacon be the ordaining Bishop, or the next Cardinal bishop in seniority

  8. prof. basto says:

    Sorry, Father, only saw your post after sending mine.

    The Latin text of UDG can be found at:

    While I believe you are correct, Father, that the new Roman Pontiff can
    extend the duration of the conclave, it is also true that, if he does not
    command otherwise, conclave when the canonical acceptance is given to the
    election, under UDG art. 91:

    “Conclave absolvetur simul ac novus electus Summus Pontifex suae electioni consenserit, nisi quid aliter is statuerit”

    However, it seems that the announcement, just like other duties such as the
    episcopal consacration of a pope elect, are meant to be carried out only by
    those Cardinals that were in conclave.

  9. David Cheney says:

    Well I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know for sure.

    Here is the link to the Latin of Universi Dominici Gregis.

  10. Thomas says:

    Seeing as how the Holy Father will no doubt live another 20 years, I’d say this is all a moot point.

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    Does the fact that a Cardinal is over 80 and no longer allowed to vote in a conclave prohibit him from entering the conclave?

  12. prof. basto says:

    Yes, Mr. Ferguson.

    Cardinals over 80 do not enter the conclave. Even the cardinal who, not
    being a Cardinal elector, delivered the last meditation to the Sacred
    College before the first ballot of the 2005 Conclave had to leave, together
    with Marini after the extra omnes but before the start of the actual voting.

  13. Gregor says:

    prof. basto, I understand your argument. However, what about the norm I cite in my original post, i.e. can. 355 § 2: “Cardinalis Proto-diaconus nomen novi electi Summi Pontificis populo annuntiant.” Shouldn’t “a primo Cardinalium Diaconorum” be interpreted in light of this canon, thus in fact referring to the Cardinal Protodeacon, who is not prevented from doing so, since the Conclave is ended? Or would you argue that can. 355 § 2 has been abrogated by no. 89 UDG?

  14. Gregor says:


    a small correction. You write “the practice to “promote” a cardinal deacon who has been a cardinal deacon for some years, to the dignity of cardinal priest, although he does not thereby change his titutlar church in Rome from a diaconal title to a presbyteral title.”. In fact, he does. Either his titular church is elevated from diaconia to titulus presbyteralis “pro hac vice”, i.e. for him only, returning to be a diaconia at the next assignation. This is what happened this time with cardinals Medina, Castrillón, Antonetti and Cheli. Or he is released from his diaconia and assigned a new presbyteral title. This happened today with cardinal Stafford, who was released from his diaconia of Gesù Buon Pastore alla Montagnola and was assigned the presbyteral title of S. Pietro in Montorio.

  15. Matt Q says:

    I like reading about these sorts of things. Very interesting development, and somewhat complicated, but when all is said and done… so now what? Is this a gain or a loss to those involved? Is this more of a return to Tradition or a further erosion of it?

  16. Gregor says:

    Stephen V. and prof. basto,

    the reason why Card. Castrillón was named protodeacon instead of Card. Medina was only indirectly related to his no longer being a Cardinal elector. With reaching the 80 year mark, the membership in all Congregation ends (Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, Art. 5 § 2: “Ceteri Moderatores necnon Secretarii, expleto septuagesimo quinto ætatis anno, a munere cessant; Membra octogesimo anno expleto). With the end of a curial office, the obligation to reside in Rome ends (can. 356 CIC). Therefore, Card. Medina was free to leave Rome, and he indeed chose to return to Chile. This was the reason why he was replaced as Protodeacon, since it is expected that the Protodeacon resides in Rome. So the confirmation of Card. Cacciavillan as Protodeacon is not a departure from what had been done before.

  17. Prof. Basto says:

    Thanks, Gregor. This makes things clear on that front.

    It still remains unclear wether Card. Cacciavillan would be the one making the announcement of a papal election or if that duty would fall to the first Cardinal Deacon elector, Card. Sebastiani.

    Hopefully, we will never know the answer to that question.

  18. Gregor says:

    Prof. Basto,

    “Hopefully, we will never know the answer to that question.”

    I completely agree.

  19. peretti says:

    This is quite interesting, and if I may, I would like to throw my two cents in. Let’s assume the Cardinal Protodeacon is 80 plus, and in good health. We know he cannot participate in the voting, but he could be housed in the same quarters or same general premises. When the white smoke hits the stack, he could be summoned before the voting cardinals, and informed of who the new pope is, and what name he has taken. He can then make the announcement to the world as per proper protocol. I feel that the man who holds the title of Cardinal Protodeacon, whether he is an elector or not, should make the announcement. However, I also feel that the TLM should be readily available in every parish in the world, which should be a good indication of how much sway I have.

  20. Allan says:

    So, even though nearly all the cardinals are really bishops….

    Interesting – there are non-Bishop Cardinals? Who?

    I understand that under Canon Law the only qualifications for being named Cardinal is that you be a baptised male; even priestly ordination is not required. Is this correct, or am I misinformed?

    Have there ever been any “lay” Cardinals?

  21. SuzyQ says:

    Re: Interesting – there are non-Bishop Cardinals? Who?

    Avery Cardinal Dulles, for one.

  22. Louis E. says:

    Gregor’s comment explains not only the recent unprecedented resignation of the protodeacon but the recent departures from the office of Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals Rossi(to return to Brazil) and Gantin(to return to Benin).Cardinal Sodano,by contrast,turned 80 last November but retains the Deanship (and thus,if he survives Pope Benedict,would preside over the General Congregation but not over the conclave itself,which between now and 2015 would be presided over by Cardinal Lopez Trujillo,who is the senior Cardinal-Bishop under age 80 and the youngest of the six.It is unclear what would happen if all six Cardinal-Bishops were over 80!)

    It should be noted that some men(including every President that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has had to date) have continued to be the heads of dicasteries after their 80th birthdays.

    Recent Cardinals protodeacon include Cardinals Lourdusamy (1993-1996,became a cardinal-priest still in his early 70s),Martinez Somalo(1996-1999,became a cardinal-priest still in his early 70s),Laghi(1999-2002,became a cardinal-priest just before turning 80),Poggi(2002-2005,became protodeacon at 84 and cardinal-priest at 87),and Medina Estevez(2005-2007,before the extraordinary appointment of Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos).During Cardinal Poggi’s protodiaconate,the position of senior elector among the cardinal-deacons was held by Cardinal Schotte until his death in January 2005 and then by Cardinal Medina Estevez.

    Cardinals Cacciavillan and Sebastiani can be expected to be in their current positions until 2011 when the Cardinal-deacons of the 2001 consistory acquire the right to become cardinal-priests (shortly before Sebastiani turns 80).Cardinal Tauran would then be in line for the protodiaconate in 2011-2013,then Cardinal Levada 2013-2016,then Cardinal Sandri.

    Lay cardinals ended long ago,and the last cardinal to be only a deacon died in 1899.It became canon law that all cardinals had to be priests in 1918 and that they had to be bishops in 1962,but priests have often been dispensed from the latter requirement.Cardinals who are only priests are always made cardinals as cardinal-deacons but as they are priests are eligible to be promoted to cardinal-priest.The former right of cardinal-priests to opt for the order of cardinal-bishops after a time no longer exists;the cardinal-bishops are the only cardinals who have always been required to be bishops.

  23. Bill says:

    Prof. Basto,

    I personally think the Cardinal Protodeacon will announce the election. I do not believe it matters whether or not he is an elector. The English translation simply states “the senior Cardinal Deacon.” Since the protodeacon is such, he should be the one to announce.

    Also, nothing really unusual about this. Here is a link to the rankings from the last conclave:

    The order of deacons mentions Medina, then Hoyos, then Stafford (became cardinal priest on the very day-ineligible), and then Cacciavillan.

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