One of the generally accepted assumptions about the next conclave is that cardinals will be looking for a relatively young and energetic candidate. So it’s worth examining what passes for “young” in the College of Cardinals.
The average age of the world’s 209 cardinals is 78. Among the 117 cardinals who are under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave, the average age is nearly 72; almost two-thirds of the electors are over age 70.
I decided to make an unscientific tally of the 15 most-mentioned papabili in recent days, and found their average age to be 67. Only one is under age 60 — Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle.
Clearly, if the cardinals are looking for someone in the youthful age bracket as, say, Pope John Paul II, who was 58 when elected pope, the field is going to be pretty thin.
In fact, among cardinal electors, only four others are under age 60: Cardinals Baselios Thottunkal of Trivandrum (India), 53; Ranier Maria Woelki of Berlin, 56; Willem Eijk of the Netherlands, 59; and Reinhard Marx of Munich, 59.
Looking again at the most-mentioned papabili list, there are five cardinals between age 60-65: Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, 60; New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 63; Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, 63; Ghanan Cardinal Peter Turkson, 64; and Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, 65.