In the event of a conclave, the South African cardinal Wilfrid Napier would no longer be an elector

After having been blithely exceeded following the consistory of last November, the theoretical limit of the number of cardinal electors is gradually approaching. Since Monday March 8, the College of Cardinalice has only 126 electing members in the event of a conclave, against a theoretical maximum of 120. Archbishop of Durban, South Africa, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier in fact celebrates, on Monday March 8, his 80e anniversary, thus losing its right to vote in the event of the election of a new pope.

→ READ. Sudanese Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako is no longer an elector in the event of a conclave

South African by birth, Wilfrid Napier studied in Ireland and at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He was ordained a priest in 1970, before being appointed eight years later apostolic administrator of the diocese of Kokstad, of which he became the titular bishop in November 1980, at the age of 39. President of the South African Bishops’ Conference from 1987 to 1994, Bishop Napier was involved in the fight against apartheid then in force in his country – he was also close to Nelson Mandela.

An important voice of the conclaves

In 1992, Pope John Paul II appointed him head of the diocese of Durban, of which he became the first black archbishop. Once again president of the national episcopal conference from 2000 to 2008, Bishop Napier received, in 2001, the cardinal bar from the hands of John Paul II. He therefore participated in the conclaves of 2005 and 2013, during which he was otherwise considered papabile, at least like a man whose voice would carry.

A pledge of the confidence he inspires in him, Pope Francis chose him in 2014 to be a member of the Council for the Economy, alongside seven other cardinals – including the French Jean-Pierre Ricard, then Archbishop of Bordeaux. This mandate ended five years later and was added to those of member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and of the Pontifical Council for Culture. .

Traditional approach to the family

In 2015, Cardinal Napier was chosen by Pope Francis to be one of the delegated presidents of the Second Synod on the Family. In the aula synodale, he is one of the predominant voices, not hesitating to strongly defend the traditional family model. In 2018, he again participated in a synod, the one on young people, faith and vocational discernment. Here again, a sign of his importance, he was elected to the Information Commission to represent Africa, replacing Cardinal Robert Sarah, then Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who had declined to ” personal reasons “.

→ MAINTENANCE. Cardinal Napier: “Mandela embodied humility”

Besides two cardinal-patriarchs, Cardinal Napier is now the only cardinal still at the head of a diocese while no longer being an elector in the event of a conclave. The next cardinal to lose his right to vote because of his age will be George Pell, Prefect Emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy, who will be 80 years old on June 8.


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