Is being a cardinal an Italian job?

Posted by Alessandro Speciale

It’s been occurring to me that under Benedict XVI the Roman Curia – and the Church’s leadership in general – has steadily become more, well, Roman,  Or at least more Italian. Never mind that the pope is German himself: he has spent more than 30 years in the Eternal City and has become, as they say here, ‘più romano dei romani’.

So after the latest announcement of the new cardinal appointments, I sat down with pen, paper and a calculator and tried to put some meat on this feeling in my bones.

For simplicity’s sake, I decided to look at how the weight of the six continents in the electoral college of Cardinals changed between 2005, when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope, and today – or rather February 18, when the new cardinals will officially be awarded their new titles.

Keep in mind that there were 117 cardinal electors when the Pope was elected but two of them, one from the Philippines and one from Mexico, couldn’t attend. I’ve kept them in my calculations for coherence’s sake.

 

Cardinals in 2005

% in 2005

Cardinals in 2012

% in 2012

Europe

58

49,60%

67

53,60%

Africa

11

9,40%

11

8,80%

Asia

11

9,40%

9

7,20%

North America

14

12,00%

15

12,00%

Latin America

21

17,90%

22

17,60%

Oceania

2

1,70%

1

0,80%

(Italy)

20

17,11%

30

24,00%

(USA)

11

9,40%

12

9,60%

TOTAL

117

 

125

 

As you can see, yes, there was a 4% growth in Europe’s representation, but a significant 7% rise in Italy’s. Africa, Asia and Latin America – where most Catholics live now – by and large keep the same numbers. But their proportional representation has actually diminished because that bottom line number of cardinals has grown.

This consistory will also mark the moment when the number of cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict overtakes the number chosen by John Paul II. So I tried to see how today’s College has been shaped, proportionally, by the last two popes.

 

Benedict XVI’s cardinals

John Paul II’s cardinals

TOTAL

Europe

38

29

67

Africa

5

6

11

Asia

5

4

9

North America

8

7

15

Latin America

7

15

22

Oceania

0

1

1

(Italy)

21

9

30

(USA)

7

5

12

TOTAL

63

62

125

Of course, many cardinals are chosen more or less automatically; they know they are in line for a red hat when they are appointed to a particular Vatican post or diocese. Nevertheless, the last word always rests with the Pope.

And as you can see, more than two-thirds of Italy’s 30 cardinals have been appointed by Pope Benedict. So we can say that the Italianization is mostly his doing; if he wanted to scale back on the country’s traditional clout in the universal Church, he could have done.

Needless to say, these are just numbers. They can be read many ways.

What do you make of them? Can you spot any trends that I’ve missed?

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Filed under Alessandro Speciale, Catholics, Italy, John Paul II, Pope Benedict, Vatican