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Vatican news for 2010 could include a consistory, few changes in the Curia

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 02, 2009

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, celebrated his 75th birthday today. Canon law now requires him to submit his resignation to the Pope, although there is virtually no chance at all that the Holy Father will choose to accept that resignation anytime soon. Cardinal Bertone has only been Secretary of State for a bit more than 3 years, he is extremely energetic, and by all available indications he enjoys the full confidence of the Pontiff. 

Pope Benedict-- like his predecessor Pope John Paul II-- has frequently kept prelates in office well beyond the normative retirement date. In the Roman Curia today, Cardinals Claudio Hummes and Franc Rodé, the prefects of the Congregations for Clergy and Religious, respectively, are already 75, as is Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. None seems likely to be replaced soon.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, will turn 76 in January, and Vatican-watchers have heard many rumors about his impending replacement. On the other hand, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, is closer to 77, and although he has been a lightning-rod for controversy, the Pope has shown no interest in replacing him. 

In fact, apart from the possible replacement of Cardinal Re-- whose position is  one of the most influential at the Vatican, handling episcopal appointments all around the world-- there are no obvious candidates for change in the leadership of the Roman Curia. 

There are, however, several Vatican officials who are clearly in line for elevation to the College of Cardinals. Prominent among them are Archbishop Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Archbishop Raymond Burke, the head of the Apostolic Signatura. 

Pope Benedict has convened only two consistories to name new cardinals during his pontificate: in March 2006 and November 2007. The time seems ripe for another consistory in 2010. There are now 185 living cardinals, of whom 113 are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave. The limit for cardinal-electors (which Pope John Paul II twice exceeded) is 120, so there are 7 openings right now. By the end of March 2010, five more cardinals will have passed their 80th birthdays, and the number of openings for new cardinal-electors will stand at 12. 


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