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By elevating nine cardinal deacons, including Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, to the rank of cardinal priest during the consistory of March 4, 2022, Pope Francis has de facto entrusted the role of protodeacon in the event of a conclave to American prelate James Michael Harvey, age 72.
The protodeacon, the oldest cardinal in the order of cardinal deacons, has the task, among other things, of pronouncing the famous Latin formula introducing a newly elected pope: “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam” – “I announce to you a great joy, we have a pope.”
The current protodeacon of the College of Cardinals is Italian Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. However, he is 89 years old and therefore cannot participate in a conclave, as any cardinal over age 80 is not permitted, a rule made in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
Therefore, it is now the most senior cardinal deacon elector, Cardinal Harvey, and not Cardinal Bertello as was previously the case, who would serve as protodeacon during a conclave.
There is also a “cardinal protopriest,” dean of the college of cardinal priests, and a “dean of cardinals,” elected for five years and head of the order of cardinal bishops and of the entire college of cardinals.
Currently, the cardinal protopriest is Thailand’s Michael Michai Kitbunchu (93) – who would be replaced for age by Croatia’s Vinko Puljić (76) in the event of a conclave.
The dean of the cardinals is Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re (88), who would be in charge of convening the conclave in the event of the death or resignation of Pope Francis. During the conclave, he would be replaced by his vice-dean, Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (78), who would have the task of presiding over the conclave and asking the cardinal elect if he accepts his election and what name he intends to bear.