Some Cardinals Can't Vote

More than a third of the College of Cardinals (search) won't be balloting for the next pope.

Pope John Paul II's (search) 1996 decree that set out the rules for papal elections retained a radical change — initiated by Paul VI in 1967 — that bars all cardinals who have reached age 80 from the conclave.

The college currently consists of 117 men with voting rights and 66 who are too old. Ecuador's Antonio Gonzalez Zumarraga (search) just missed out; he reached the limit March 18.

Significantly, 19 nonvoters are Italians, compared with 20 of the electors. If the old rules were still in place that might have helped Italy regain the papacy. There are four nonvoting Brazilians and four Poles. All other nations have one or two.

The older cardinals are allowed to participate in the "general congregations" — the daily meetings of the college before the conclave — and so they may be able to influence the thinking of their under-80 colleagues. But that's all.

The two overage American cardinals are Avery Dulles (search) of New York's Fordham University, the first U.S. theologian honored with a red hat, and Anthony Bevilacqua (search) of Philadelphia, who will remain home and is not giving interviews.

Dulles said he'll arrive in Rome on Thursday and attend the general congregations.

"Being somewhat of a coward, I guess I'm just as glad not to have that weight on my shoulders and entrust that task to others," Dulles said.

Dulles says he won't be "campaigning for anybody," but might mention more general concerns if they aren't raised by others.

He thinks the church "needs somebody with a very wide horizon of the global situation of the church" but is simultaneously "familiar with the Roman scene," knows the Vatican Curia and speaks Italian. Somebody like John Paul II, for instance.