Dean of the College of Cardinals

Angelo Sodano, the current Dean of the College of Cardinals.

The Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals (Latin: Decanus Sacri Collegii) is the dean (president) 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 a Sub-Dean; in those roles they act as the president and vice-president of the college respectively. Both are elected by and from the cardinals holding suburbicarian dioceses, but the elections require Papal confirmation. Except for presiding and deputizing respectively the dean and sub-dean have no power of governance over the other cardinals. In the Order of precedence in the Catholic Church as Cardinal Bishops, the Dean and Sub-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. 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, a formality until the time of Pope John Paul II, must be confirmed by the pope.

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


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 is the right of the Dean to ordain him as such.

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 Pope

Eight Deans have been elected Pope:[3] Anastasius IV, Lucius III, Gregory IX, Alexander IV, Alexander VI, Paul III, Paul IV, Benedict XVI.

List of Deans

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.

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

Before the Western Schism

During the Western Schism

The obedience of Rome (1378–1415)

The obedience of Avignon (1378–1429)

  • Ange de Grimoard (until 1388)
  • Pietro Corsini (1335–1405) (1370, 1388)
  • Gui de Malsec (d. 1412) (1375, 1405, deposed 1409, retained the post in the obedience of Pisa)
  • Jean Flandrin (after 1301–1415) (1390, 1405)
  • Julián Lobera y Valtierra (d. 1435) (1423, 1423 until 1429)

The obedience of Pisa (1409–1415)

After the Council of Constance

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  1. Pope John Paul II (22 February 1996). "Universi Dominici Gregis, art. 19". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 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. Joined the obedience of Antipope Anacletus II in 1130
  5. He joined the obedience of Antipope Victor IV in 1159 .
  6. He was the only cardinal-bishop in the Roman obedience after 1397.
  7. Former Pope Gregory XII of the Roman obedience
  8. Former Pisan Antipope John XXIII
  9. 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
  10. Cardinal-bishop of Sabina. Former Antipope Felix V
  11. This cardinal is not referred to as dean by S. Miranda but his occupation of that post appears from the order of seniority
  12. 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.
  13. Cardinal-bishop of Frascati .
  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 , 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
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