Cardinal Francis Arinze
By Yemi Adebowale
Contrary to presumptions, Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, may after all not be eligible to vote or be voted for when the College of Cardinals converge at the Vatican to elect a new Pope to replace Pope Benedict XV1. This is because he is over 80 years old.
Some western media had listed Arinze as a top contender in speculative stories on the prospects of a black Pope emerging. "Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria are in the frame to become the first ever-black pope, certainly in the modern era," reports the British Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday.
But under the terms put in place by Pope Paul VI, cardinals who had reached the age of 80 before the conclave opens had no vote in Papal elections.
Again, the current rules for the election of the Roman Pontiff; those put in place by Pope John Paul II on February 22, 1996, state that "cardinals who have reached the age of 80 before the day the See becomes vacant do not have a vote."
Further checks in Wikipedia, a respected online encyclopaedia showed that cardinal Arinze was among the Cardinals listed as having reached the age of 80 and, as a result, lost the right to participate in a conclave.
Cardinal Arinze was born on November 1, 1932. He was 80 last year and has thus lost his right to participate in a conclave because of age.
When asked to comment on the eligibility of Cardinal Arinze, Monsignor Gabriel Osu who heads the communication department of the Lagos Catholic Archdiocese said: "Well, I am certain of Okogie and I am certain of Onaiyekan. Arinze I am not too certain. His age is 80 plus. What I have said is subject to correction. But I know that Okogie and Onaiyekan are within the range. These are the two. Arinze, being 80 plus, I doubt. I am subject to correction, but I doubt."
Arinze has been Cardinal since May 25, 1985. He is the Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni - succeeding Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI. He is also the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The cardinal was one of the principal advisors to Pope John Paul II, and was considered papabile before the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Pope Benedict XV1.
With Arinze most likely out, two other Nigerian Cardinals are still in the race. They are Cardinal John Onaiyekan who is 69 and Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie who is 76.
Onaiyekan was elevated to the post of Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in a Consistory on 24 November 2012. As Cardinal-Priest, he was assigned the titular church of San Saturnino. Onaiyekan was born on January 29, 1944 in Kabba, Kogi State.
Okogie was born on 16 June, 1936 in Lagos. He was proclaimed Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the consistory of 21 October 2003, and holds the title of Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria del Monte Carmelo a Mostacciano (Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel of Mostacciano).