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not going anywhere

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 26, 2009

 The Dean of the College of Cardinals holds a mostly ceremonial role. Until recently it was assumed that once a prelate became the Dean, he would remain in that post until death. But in 1993, Cardinal Angelo Rossi set a precedent. Having reached the age of 80, and having thereby become ineligible to take part in a papal conclave-- which is, of course, the most important responsibility of the College of Cardinals-- Cardinal Rossi resigned as Dean. His successor, the late Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, did the same: in 2002, shortly after his own 80th birthday, he stepped down. Cardinal Gantin was succeeded as dean by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who left the post in April 2005 when he became Pope Benedict XVI. So the College of Cardinals got a new Dean: Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was then Secretary of State.

Time passed, and Pope Benedict chose a new Secretary of State: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The announcement of that change, in June 2006, was highly unusual by Vatican standards. Ordinarily, when a change is made in the leadership of the Roman Curia, the Vatican simultaneously announces the identity of the incoming prelate and the resignation of  his predecessor; the change takes effect immediately. But in this case the announcement of Cardinal Bertone's appointment stipulated that Cardinal Sodano would remain Secretary of State, "with all the faculties inherent to that role," for three more months. Even after Cardinal Bertone arrived in Rome, Cardinal Sodano delayed for many weeks before moving out of his assigned office in the apostolic palace and his apartment on the Vatican grounds. To this day, even without a formal portfolio, he remains a powerful force inside the Vatican. 

And he remains the Dean of the College of Cardinals. His last two predecessors (not counting the current Pope, a special case) were both gone within 6 weeks of their 80th birthdays. Cardinal Sodano turned 81 last November. He's still going strong. 

 

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