Monday, March 4, 2013

College of Cardinals still largely European body

Despite being the largest Church in the world, with an overwhelming majority living outside the Old Continent, Europeans make up more than half of the cardinals that will elect the next Pope. Of the 115 prelates eligible to vote in the conclave, 60 of them are from Europe. The overwhelming majority are from Italy (28), no surprise given the Vatican's location. But broken down further, all Italian cardinals are active or former Curia members, except for nine who lead or have led Italy's largest archdioceses. Nearly two thirds of all European cardinals (37) were created by Benedict XVI. 

The next largest geographic area represented, or rather, misrepresented, in the College of Cardinals is Latin America. Despite having half of the world's Catholic population, only 19 Latin American cardinals vote in the conclave. The two largest Catholic countries in the world, Brazil and Mexico, will have five and three representatives respectively.

North America has 14 papal electors, with the United States dominating that list. It's an unusually high proportion given that the two countries' combined Catholic population (81 million) is much less than that of Mexico alone (101 million). Most of the 11 American cardinals come from the country's largest archdioceses. Two of the three Canadian cardinals come from traditionally Catholic, French-speaking Quebec.

Africa, the fastest growing region for the Catholic Church, will have 11 delegates in the conclave. They all come from separate corners of the continent. Only Nigeria, the most populous African country, has two participating cardinals. Nearly all of them come from countries with substantial Muslim populations, including four where they make up an absolute majority.

The remaining 11 cardinals come from Asia and the Pacific. Five of them are from India alone. However, the Indian cardinals represents three separate Churches: the Roman, Syro-Malabara and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches. The Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon will also be represented among the Asian cardinals. Another two come from Communist countries (Vietnam and China), while the lone representative from Oceania comes from Australia. 

Not included in this list are two cardinals that have said they will not take part in the conclave. One is from Indonesia and the other from Scotland.

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