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In Colombia another cardinal of the Catholic Church reaches the age of 80, thus losing his vote in a future conclave. He is Pedro Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz, and his birthday today means that there are 117 cardinal electors left.
Pedro Rubiano Sáenz was born in Cartago, western Colombia. Studying in Popayán, Colombia and in Québec, Canada, he was subsequently ordained for the Diocese of Cali. As a priest, Fr. Rubiano Sáenz founded several parishes, functioned as chaplain to the Air Force Academy, a clinic and a college. He later was assigned as treasurer of the diocese, which by then had been elevated to an archdiocese, and vicar for pastoral activity. He also worked as vice-rector of a school. In 1971, he was appointed as bishop of the Diocese of Cúcuta, located in the north of Colombia.
Aged not yet 40, Bishop Rubiano Sáenz was among the youngest of the nation’s bishops. After almost 12 years in Cúcuta, he was appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of his native Archdiocese of Cali, succeeding Archbishop Alberto Uribe Urdaneta in 1985. In 1986, he hosted Blessed Pope John Paul II as he visited Colombia. Archbishop Rubiano Sáenz headed the Colombian Bishops’ Conference from 1990 to 1994. In the middle of that tenure, he was transferred to the nation’s capital and became Archbishop of Bogotá.
As Primate of Colombia, Archbishop Rubiano Sáenz would soon be made a cardinal. This happened in 2001, and he became the first cardinal priest of Trasfigurazione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo. From 2002 to 2005, he once again chaired the Bishops’ Conference. In 2010, Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz retired as Archbishop of Bogotá.
Cardinal Rubiano Sáenz was a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
With yesterday’s passing of John Cardinal Foley, Grand Master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the number of cardinals able to vote in a conclave (ie. those under 80) has dropped to 109. A consistory creating new cardinals sometime in 2012 seems increasingly likely, especially considering the fact that in that year another 13 cardinals* will become octogenarians, bringing the number of electors down to 96, the lowest it’s been since, as far as I can gather, 2001. In the recent history of the college, whenever the number drops below 100, consistories would usually follow fairly soon after.
Not that numbers are magical or in any way legally binding. The maximum number of cardinal electors is set at 120, although popes are free to create more than that or raise or lower that limit. Blessed John Paul II has done the former several times, for example. Although numbers do play a role, cardinals are not created to fill up the roster, so to speak. But we can use the numbers as indicators. Next year, as the forces of old age bring the number lower and lower, Pope Benedict XVI may wish to look towards the future and prepare for the election of his successor. Obviously, he can do so by deciding who receives the red hat.
The buzz these days is that a consistory may be scheduled for the end of the new year, much like the last one, which took place at the end of November of 2010.
Lastly, as for the likely cardinalibile, much is guesswork.Two reasonably likely candidates in these parts of the world, however, are Archbishops Wim Eijk of Utrecht and Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Their respective predecessors (Cardinals Simonis and Murphy-O’Connor) have recently turned 80 or will do so in 2012. Since Pope Benedict has an unofficial policy of not appointing new cardinals in areas with an existing cardinal below 80, these archbishops now run a fair chance at the red hat.
Photo credit: AP Photo
*These, emeriti all, are: José Card. Saraiva Martins (Congr. Causes of Saints), Joseph Card. Zen Ze-kiun (Hong Kong), Rodolfo Card. Quezada Toruño (Guatemala), Edward Card. Egan (New York), Miloslav Card. Vlk (Prague), Henri Card. Schwery (Sion), James Card. Stafford (Denver, Apostolic Penitentiary), Gaudencio Card. Rosales (Manila), Cormac Card. Murphy-O’Connor (Westminster), Pedro Card. Rubiano Sáenz (Bogotá), Francis Card. Arinze (Onitsha, Congr. Divine Worship & Discipline Sacraments), Renato Card. Martino (Pont. Council Justice & Peace) and Eusébio Card. Scheid (Rio de Janeiro).