VATICAN CITY — Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the former archbishop of Krakow and longtime secretary to St. John Paul II, celebrated his 80th birthday April 27, ending his eligibility to vote in a conclave. With his birthday, the College of Cardinals returns to having 120 cardinal electors, the maximum limit established by St. Paul VI, but frequently set aside for months at a time over the past three decades.
The Catholic Church currently has 222 cardinals, who come from 88 nations.
The 120 cardinals under 80 years of age and, therefore, eligible to enter a conclave, come from 65 countries, a result of Pope Francis’ practice of naming several cardinals from countries that have never had one before.
His efforts, however, have not done much to make the percentage of cardinals from one geographical region match the percentage of the world’s Catholics found in that region.
For example, according to Vatican statistics published in February, 21.8 percent of the world’s Catholics live in Europe, while 48.5 percent live in Latin America.
In the current College of Cardinals, 42.5 percent of the cardinal electors come from Europe, while 17.5 percent come from Latin America.
However, Pope Francis has visibly shifted the college’s makeup with fewer members being from Europe and many more from African and Asia.
In the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005 after the death of St. John Paul II, 115 cardinals from 52 countries entered the Sistine Chapel: 50.4 percent were from Europe; 18.2 percent were from Latin America; 12.1 percent were from the U.S. and Canada; 9.6 percent were from Africa; 7.8 percent were from Asia; and 1.7 percent were from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Eight years later, when Pope Benedict resigned, 115 cardinals from 48 countries participated in the conclave that elected Pope Francis: 52.1 percent of the cardinal electors were from Europe; 16.5 percent were Latin American; 12.1 were North Americans; 9.6 were from Africa; 8.7 percent were from Asia; and less than 1 percent were from what the Vatican calls Oceania.
With Cardinal Dziwisz leaving the group, the cardinal electors now include: 42.5 percent from Europe; 17.5 percent from Latin America; 10 percent from North America; 13.3 percent from Africa; 13.3 percent from Asia and 3.3 percent from Oceania.