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The cardinals who will lose their right to vote in a conclave in 2023

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GREGORIO BORGIA / POOL / AFP

Cyprien Viet - Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 12/27/22

11 cardinals will turn 80 years old in 2023, meaning they will stop being electors and thus won't be able to vote for a new pope.

In 2023, 11 cardinals will be celebrating their 80th birthdays and thus are expected to lose their right to vote in a conclave. All born in 1943, the cardinals who will cease to be electors are from the following countries: five from Italy, one from the Czech Republic, one from Bangladesh, one from Argentina, one from South Korea, one from Mali and one from Peru. 

The number of Cardinal Electors will thus decrease from 125 (after Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga’s 80th birthday on December 29) to 114, barring death or expulsion from the College of Cardinals. This natural evolution will have a particular impact on the proportion of Italians present within the College. Unless a consistory is held during the year, the number of Italian cardinals will drop from 19 to 14. 

The first cardinal to lose his voting rights in 2023 will be Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco on January 14. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2006 and was Archbishop of Genoa from 2006 to 2020. Cardinal Bagnasco was also the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference for two five-year terms (2007-2017) and was considered the architect of a muted opposition to Francis’ pontificate, by slowing down the implementation of reforms that the Argentinian pope wanted to enact within the Church of Italy. Cardinal Bagnasco also served as president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) from 2016 to 2021.

2. Domenico Calcagno

Another Italian, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, will turn 80 on February 3. A gun enthusiast and ironically nicknamed “Archbishop Rambo,” he presided over the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) from 2011 to 2018. In 2012 he was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI. During his mandate as Bishop of Savona (2002-2007) he was criticized for how he handled an abuse case and for certain financial problems within his diocese. Cardinal Calcagno also opposed the financial reforms led by the Australian cardinal George Pell when he was prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. For the last couple of years the Italian prelate has been living a quiet retirement at the Vatican.

3. Dominik Duka

On April 26, Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka will lose his rights as a cardinal elector. This Dominican, very close to Benedict XVI, is one of the last living figures representing the Christian resistance to communism in Central Europe. Ordained a priest in 1970, he was forced to hide his religious status for a long time and in the meantime worked as an industrial designer in a Skoda factory. He spent some time in prison in the early 1980s which gave him the opportunity to meet several dissident figures, including Vaclav Havel, the first Czech president after the country’s independence. After the fall of communism, Father Duka, as superior of the Dominican Provincial, helped in the moral rebuilding of the country. Nominated as Archbishop of Prague in 2010, he was then created a cardinal in 2012 and retired from his functions in May 2022.

4. Crescenzio Sepe

On June 2, Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe will leave the College of Cardinal Electors. After a career in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Sepe was put in charge of organizing the Great Jubilee of 2000. Then in 2001 he was nominated Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II that same year. Though questioned for his financial management of this Dicastery, he was then nominated Archbishop of Naples in 2006. He was very appreciated for his pastoral dynamism and his strong stance against the mafia and stayed in this job until 2020. He received Pope Francis twice in his diocese: on March 21, 2015 and June 21, 2019.

5. Giuseppe Versaldi

On July 30, Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi will no longer be an elector. He was the last head of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs (2011-2015) before this body became part of the Secretariat for the Economy. He was created a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012. After being implicated in certain corruption cases that were eventually dismissed by the Italian judicial system, he was then Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education from 2015 to 2022.

6. Angelo Comastri

On September 17, Italian Cardinal Angelo Comastri will lose his right to vote in a Conclave. After serving as Archbishop-Prelate of Loreto, this personal friend of Mother Teresa and John Paul II was called to Rome to become Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica in 2006, where he stayed until 2021. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007. Cardinal Comastri was very appreciated for the density of his spiritual writings. He saw the end of his mandate tainted by abuse and harassment cases, which occurred in the minor seminary of Saint Pius X, within the Vatican, and of which he was the guardian. There were also concerns regarding his financial management as the President of the Fabric of Saint Peter. Nevertheless, the pope maintained his confidence in Cardinal Comastri until he was over 77 years old (the retirement age being 75). Today, he still leads certain moments of prayer, such as the midday Rosary in St. Peter’s Basilica, which began during the first lockdown in Italy in the spring of 2020.

7. Patrick D’Rozario

On October 1, Bangladesh’s first Cardinal, Patrick D’Rozario, will leave the college of cardinal electors. He was also the first Catholic priest ordained in his country, after its independence in 1971. A member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Cardinal D’Rozario studied moral theology at the University of Louvain (Belgium) in the 1970s and then was nominated bishop in 1990. He was chosen by Benedict XVI to become Archbishop of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in 2011, and held this role until 2020. In 2016 Francis made him the first cardinal of this predominantly Muslim country, and visited his diocese the following year. There the Pontiff also encouraged the population to receive the Rohingya refugees fleeing neighboring Myanmar.

8. Leonardo Sandri

On November 18, Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri will cease to be a Cardinal Elector. This prelate was the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches from 2007 to 2022 and will formally be succeeded by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti this coming January. He has had a long diplomatic career : He was the Apostolic Nuncio in Venezuela and then in Mexico, before serving as Substitute of the Secretariat of State from 2000 to 2005. In this role, he was responsible for announcing the death of John Paul II on the evening of April 2, 2005. Created a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007, he is currently vice-dean of the College of Cardinals and should keep this status even after his 80th birthday, as this office is not affected by the age limit.

9. Andrew Yeom Soo-jung

On December 5, the South Korean Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung will celebrate his 80th birthday. The grandson of martyrs, he was Archbishop of Seoul from 2012 to 2021 and was created a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2014. That same year, the Argentine Pontiff traveled to South Korea for his third apostolic trip, discovering a very dynamic and missionary Church in this country. For example, priestly vocations are numerous, with the Seoul Diocese having about 900 priests in 2017. Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, who is very committed to the reconciliation and reunification between the two Koreas, also held the symbolic position of Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Pyongyang, North Korea. This office cannot be exercised practically, due to the absence of religious freedom in the state.  

10. Jean Zerbo

On December 27, Cardinal Jean Zerbo (Mali), still serving as Archbishop of Bamako as of December 2022, will celebrate his 80th birthday. He was the first cardinal to be created from Mali, a predominantly Mulsim country. His position embodied the challenge of Mulism-Christian dialogue in the Sahel, a region marked by political instability and Islamic terrorism. Cardinal Zerbo became an Auxiliary Bishop in 1988 and then Archbishop of the Malian capital in 1998. This prelate, who was highly respected by multiple succeeding governments, saw his reputation tarnished by accusations of tax evasion, as part of the “Swiss Leaks” investigation. According to the consortium of journalists who lead the inquiry, Cardinal Zerbo, along with two other Malian Church leaders, apparently held 12 million euros in Swiss bank accounts.

11. Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne

Finally, on December 28, Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne will leave the College of Cardinal Electors. He headed the Diocese of Lima for 20 years and has been very discreet since his retirement in 2019. He was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2001, during the same consistory as the future Pope Francis, who then visited Cardinal Thorne in his Diocese in January 2018. The Peruvian cardinal, reputedly conservative, has notably led a battle against the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, considered too liberal. This former basketball player, who played on the national team before becoming a priest, embodied Opus Dei‘s bulwark against liberation theology.

Future consistories?

These birthdays could pave the way for a new Consistory, potentially in the fall of 2023, to add more prelates to the College of Cardinals. Some figures in important positions, such as Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the new Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, could then become cardinals. Paul VI set a theoretical limit for the number of Cardinal Electors at 120. However, since the pontificate of John Paul II successive popes have exceeded this threshold on several occasions.

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