Cardinals for Dummies

Tomorrow, Pope John Paul II will create 31 new cardinals. This blog entry will try to explain some facts about cardinals in the simplest way possible, because it can be complicated. Most of the information comes from Thomas J. Reese, the Jesuit priest who edits America, a Catholic newsweekly. In my opinion, Reese, a prolific writer, does one of the best jobs in Catholic world of translating complex church stuff.

So here goes:

What do cardinals do?
The cardinals advise and help the pope in the governance of the universal church, Reese says, but their most important function is probably electing popes.
Any cardinal under the age of 80 when the pope dies get to vote for the new pope. These are called cardinal electors.

How many cardinal electors are there?
As of tomorrow, 135.

Where are they from?
Italy: 17%
Western Europe (without Italy): 19.3%
Eastern Europe (including Berlin): 12.6%
Africa: 9.6%
Asia: 9.6%
Latin America: 17.8%
Oceania: 3.7%
USA: 8.1%

What is their average age?
The average age of the 135 cardinal electors is 71.4 years.

Coming tomorrow: More cardinal fun facts.

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