From Bruce Johnston, Rome correspondent THE POPE IS expected to use this month's Consistory of Cardinals to announce the alteration of the statutory age of retirement for bishops from 75 to 78.
The change will come as welcome news to some highprofile bishops and cardinals. who are approaching the time when they must submit their resignation from their pastoral mission, or diocesan, curial and other duties.
The invitation to bishops to hand in their resignation "for reason of their too advantage or other serious reasons," was set down by the Second Vatican Council.
Translated into a regulation, they were "keenly prayed" to "spontaneously submit their resignation from office, no later than the age of 75."
However, it is a further — if tacit — rule that the Pope tends to refuse the resignations of those who are highly considered in their posts.
In practice, there is a period of period of between six months and one year which is applied to bishops, and two years for cardinals.
However, there are also some major exceptions, such as in the case of Cardinal Kasimierz Swiatek of Minsk, who is 86.
In Italy, there are 15 bishops or cardinals who will be able to take advantage of the 9
extension of the age limit.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is among the high-ranking prelates who will first stand to benefit from the changeSo will Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the Archbishop of Both men are due to turn 75 next year, and both have made it known that they are keen to dedicate their time to academic pursuits.
Cardinal Martini, a respected biblical scholar, has said that he is planning to leave soon for Jerusalem, prompting an appeal from Milan's leading figures for him to linger in the Italian city a little longer.
Cardinal Ratzinger, a heavyweight theologian, has a perceived role as kingmaker on the conservative front in a conclave.
In day to day terms, his role as prefect of the CDF sets the moral tone in the Church by following the Pope's direction.
The new age limit will not affect the current 80-year limit for cardinals who can vote in a conclave.