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Catholic World News News Feature

Polish cardinal found 5 years older than official listing; ineligible for papal conclave February 03, 2005

A Polish cardinal's age is listed incorrectly in Church documents, Vatican officials have disclosed. Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, the former Archbishop of Wroclaw, is actually 81, rather than 76-- and is therefore ineligible to vote in a papal election.

The official Vatican yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, lists Cardinal Gulbinowicz as having been born in 1928. But a member of the Roman Curia discloses that the Polish prelate was actually born in 1923.

The official said that the Polish cardinal's close associates, including Pope John Paul II, are aware of the error in the listing of his age. "The cardinal surely will not enter the conclave" when Pope John Paul dies, the official said. He said that Cardinal Gulbinowicz is too honest to participate in a papal election until false pretenses. He also said that "there are indications" the Vatican has reached a tacit agreement with Cardinal Gulbinowicz on the question.

According to the Vatican official, the parents of Henryk Gulbinowicz altered his birth records, with the help of a local priest, so that the boy could avoid being enlisted in the Soviet armed forces, or sent to a labor camp. Lithuania, where the Gulbinowicz family lived, was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944, and many seminarians were pressed into military service or sent to labor camps.

Cardinal Gulbinowicz was ordained to the priesthood in 1950-- which would have been an early date, if he was indeed born in 1928. He was made a bishop in 1970, and a cardinal in May 1985.

There are now 184 members of the College of Cardinals. Of these, 119 are below the age of 80 and thus eligible to participate in a conclave; 65 others-- including Cardinal Gulbinowicz-- are beyond that age threshold.

Among the cardinal-electors, 58 are from Europe (including 20 Italians); 22 from Latin America; 14 from North America; 12 from Africa; and 11 from Asia and Oceania.

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