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The 4th-oldest Pontiff

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 14, 2013

As of today, Pope Benedict XVI is the 4th-oldest Pope to lead the Church in the past 7+ centuries—that is, in the years since reliable records have been available.

Pope Benedict is now 85 years and 270 days old: exactly the same age that Blessed Pius IX had reached when he died in 1878.

The current Pontiff was fairly old when he was elected: 78 years and 3 days. Only 4 Popes of the modern era were older when elected, and two of those—Popes Clement X and Clement XII—remained in office when they were older than Pope Benedict is today.

If the Holy Father’s good health continues, he will surpass Clement X, and become the 3rd-oldest Pope on record, in April. He would overtake Clement XII and move into 2nd place late in 2014. But he would still have a long way to go to match the longevity of Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903 at the age of 93.

Historical footnote: Leo XII, who ruled the Church for 25 years, was the immediate successor to Pius IX, who reigned for 31 years. Conclaves were not a major expense for the Holy See in the late 19th century.

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