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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.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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