U.S. Has Unprecedented Number of Electors in the Vatican

The United States will have an unprecedented voice in electing a replacement for the retiring Pope Benedict XVI, NBC News reported. Eleven cardinal electors - almost 10 percent of the conclave - will be Americans, the largest share the country has ever had. Last year, the retiring pope named three new American cardinals, increasing the U.S. total to 19. Only 11 will be electors because in order to vote in the papal election, the cardinals must be under 80 when the pope being replaced dies or leaves his seat. With 11 votes, the U.S. is now the second-largest bloc, behind only Italy, which has 28 electors, according to Vatican officials. But while there has been a shift in power towards the U.S., experts say it is unlikely that an American will be elected pope for as long as it is a world superpower. And even though the number of Catholics in the U.S. outnumber those in Italy, it is still uncertain whether their "numerical weight will actually translate into influence at the conclave," said Vatican correspondent for at Religious News Service, Alessandro Speciale. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was elevated to cardinal last year but is considered a longshot candidate to succeed the pope. The new pontiff is expected to be elected by the end of March, officials say.

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