The Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals (Latin: Decanus Sacri Collegii) is the president of the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church, and as such always holds the rank of Cardinal Bishop. The Dean is not necessarily the longest-serving member of the whole College (who might never become a Cardinal Bishop). For example, the longest-serving cardinal at present is Eugênio Cardinal de Araújo Sales, who is a Cardinal Priest. It was customary for centuries for the longest-serving of the six Cardinal Bishops of suburbicarian sees to be Dean, and this was in fact required by canon law from 1917 until Pope Paul VI empowered the six to elect him from among their number in 1965. This election, a formality until the time of Pope John Paul II, must be confirmed by the pope. While the Dean (or in his absence or inability, the Subdean) presides over the College of Cardinals, he has no power of governance over the other cardinals. Instead he functions as primus inter pares in the college. There is no mandatory age of retirement for the position.

It is the Dean's responsibility to summon the conclave to elect a new pope when the previous one dies or resigns, and to preside 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 in the sede vacante period. According to Canon 355 (from the Latin Code of Canon Law 1983), if the newly-elected Supreme Pontiff is not already a bishop, it is the right of the Dean to ordain him as such. If the Dean is unable, then the right falls to the Sub-Dean, and then to the senior Cardinal Bishop.

According to section 4 of Canon 350, 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." The Cardinal Dean, then, continues to hold the title of his former suburbicarian diocese as well as being titular bishop of Ostia. This has been the case since 1914, by decree of St. Pius X—previous deans had given up their prior suburbicarian see for the joint title of Ostia and Velletri. (The same 1914 decree separated the sees of Ostia and Velletri.)

Deans of the Sacred College of Cardinals

Each name is followed by years of birth and death, then comma-separated years of cardinalate and deanship. Two recent deans have chosen to retire before dying, while eight were elected Pope, Anastasius IV, Lucius III, Gregory IX, Alexander IV Alexander VI, Paul III, Paul IV and most recently Benedict XVI (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, elected Pope in 2005, the first Dean to be so elevated since Pope Paul IV in 1555).[2]

Before the Great Western Schism

Great Western Schism


|style="width: 33.33%;" align="left" valign="top" | The obedience of Rome (1378-1415)

|style="width: 33.33%;" align="left" valign="top" | The obedience of Avignon (1378-1429)

|style="width: 33.33%;" align="left" valign="top" | The obedience of Pisa (1409-1415)


After the Council of Constance


  1. Pope John Paul II (22 February 1996). "Universi Dominici Gregis, art. 19". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  2. 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.
  3. Joined the obedience of Antipope Anacletus II in 1130
  4. He joined the obedience of Antipope Victor IV in 1159 [1].
  5. He was the only cardinal-bishop in the Roman obedience after 1397.
  6. Former Pope Gregory XII of the Roman obedience
  7. Former Pisan Antipope John XXIII
  8. Although Pierre de Foix, bishop of Albano was the most senior Cardinal-Bishop 1445-64, he was omitted in the fulfilling the post of the dean of the Sacred College, because he resided outside Roman Curia
  9. Cardinal-bishop of Sabina. Former Antipope Felix V
  10. This cardinal is not referred to as dean by S. Miranda but his occupation of that post appears from the order of seniority
  11. 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.
  12. Cardinal-bishop of Frascati [2].
  13. 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.
  14. Salvador Miranda indicates that Cardinal Fabrizio Serbelloni was dean of the Sacred College 1774-1775 [3], 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

no:Kardinalskollegietpt:Deão (decano) do Colégio dos Cardeais ru:Декан Коллегии кардиналов uk:Декан Колеґії кардиналів

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