Open main menu

Dean of the College of Cardinals

  (Redirected from Cardinal Dean)
Angelo Sodano, the current Dean of the College of Cardinals.

The Dean of the College of Cardinals (Latin: Decanus Collegii S. R. E. Cardinalium) is the leader of the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. The position was established in the early 12th century.

The Dean presides over the College of Cardinals, serving as primus inter pares in the college. He always holds the rank of cardinal bishop. The Dean of the College of Cardinals is assisted by the Vice-Dean; in those roles they act as the president and vice-president of the college respectively. Both are elected by and from the Cardinal Bishops who are not Eastern Catholic patriarchs and their election is subject to papal confirmation. Except for presiding, the Dean and Vice-Dean have no power over the other cardinals. In the order of precedence in the Catholic Church as the senior Cardinal Bishops, the Dean and Vice-Dean are placed second and third, respectively, after the pope.

The Dean is often, but not necessarily, the longest-serving member of the whole College.[citation needed] It had been customary for centuries for the longest-serving of the six cardinal bishops of suburbicarian sees to be Dean. This was required by canon law from 1917 until 1965, when Pope Paul VI empowered the six to elect the Dean from among their number. This election was a formality until the time of Pope John Paul II.[citation needed]

The Dean holds the position until death or resignation; there is no mandatory age of retirement.[citation needed]


It is the Dean's responsibility to summon the conclave for the purposes of electing a new pope following a death or resignation. The Dean presides over the conclave unless he is too old to vote in it. Additionally, the dean has the responsibility of communicating the "news of the Pope's death to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See and to the Heads of the respective Nations"[1] and is the public face of the Holy See during the sede vacante period. It is the Dean, unless he is impeded, who asks the Pope-elect if he accepts the election, and then asks the new Pope what name he wishes to use. According to Canon 355 (from the Latin Code of Canon Law 1983), if the newly elected Supreme Pontiff is not already a bishop, it has always been the right of the Bishop of Ostia to ordain him.

The Cardinal Dean has "the title of the diocese of Ostia, together with that of any other church to which he already has a title,"[2] such as his suburbicarian diocese. This has been the case since 1914, by decree of Pope Pius X—previous deans had given up their prior suburbicarian see for the joint title of Ostia and Velletri, which were separated in that same 1914 decree.

Deans elected popeEdit

List of DeansEdit

The following is the list of Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, separated into three groups to account for the Western Schism, which ended after the Council of Constance. The earliest attested reference to the "College of Cardinals" is at the Council of Reims in 1148.[4]

Each name in the following list includes years of birth and death, then comma-separated years of cardinalate and deanship.

Before the Western SchismEdit

During the Western SchismEdit

After the Council of ConstanceEdit


  1. ^ Pope John Paul II (22 February 1996). "Universi Dominici Gregis, art. 19". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Archived from the original on 2007-05-06. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
  2. ^ Canon 350, section 4
  3. ^ For the first half of 12th century the source is Rudolf Hüls, Kardinäle, Klerus und Kirchen Roms: 1049–1130, Tübingen 1977, p. 84, for the rest the respective biographical entries by S. Miranda, with corrections appearing from J.M. Brixius, Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130–1181, Berlin 1912; Werner Maleczek, Papst und Kardinalskolleg von 1191 bis 1216, Vienna 1984; Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, Cardinali di curia e "familiae" cardinalizie dal 1227 al 1254, Padova 1972; and Richard Sternfeld, Der Kardinal Johann Gaetan Orsini (Papst Nikolaus III.) 1244–1277, Berlin 1905, for 12–13th centuries.
  4. ^ John F. Broderick, S.J., "The Sacred College of Cardinals: Size and Geographical Composition (1099–1986)," Archivum Historiae Pontificiae, Vol. 25 (1987), pp. 7-71, at p. 9 note 6. And see: Edith Pasztor, "Riforma della chiesa nel secolo XI e l'origine del Collegio dei Cardinali: Problemi e ricerche," in: Studio sul Medioevo cristiano offerti a Raffaello Morghen, II, (Roma 1974), pp. 609-625, arguing that the College of Cardinals did not yet exist at the end of the 11th century. Without the existence of the College, of course, a Dean of the College of Cardinals would be impossible.
  5. ^ Joined the obedience of Antipope Anacletus II in 1130
  6. ^ He joined the obedience of Antipope Victor IV in 1159 [1].
  7. ^ He was the only cardinal-bishop in the Roman obedience after 1397.
  8. ^ Former Pope Gregory XII of the Roman obedience
  9. ^ Former Pisan Antipope John XXIII
  10. ^ Although Pierre de Foix, bishop of Albano, was the most senior Cardinal-Bishop 1445–64, he was omitted in filling the post of Dean of the Sacred College, because he resided outside the Roman Curia
  11. ^ Cardinal-bishop of Sabina. Former Antipope Felix V
  12. ^ This cardinal is not referred to as dean by S. Miranda but his occupation of that post appears from the order of seniority
  13. ^ He opted for the see of Ostia e Velletri in November 1503. From that time deans of the College of Cardinals usually opted for that see immediately after assuming that post, although few exceptions to this rule had occurred.
  14. ^ Cardinal-bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina. According to L. Pastor "History of the Popes vol. XXXIV", London 1941 p. 303 and Valérie Pirie "The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves" he was Dean of the Sacred College in the Papal conclave, 1730. Also G. Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorni, vol. X, p. 15, affirms that he was dean of the Sacred College but never opted for the see of Ostia e Velletri.
  15. ^ Salvador Miranda indicates that Fabrizio Serbelloni was dean of the Sacred College 1774–1775 [2], but according to G. Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorn vol. LXIV, p. 173, Serbelloni was named bishop of Ostia e Velletri on 18 April 1774 only for that reason, that Albani, who became dean at the death of Cavalchini, refused to resign the bishopric of Porto e Santa Rufina. However, Cardinal Albani eventually opted for the see of Ostia e Velletri after the death of Serbelloni in the following year