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youngest cleric...
Question from anon on 12/27/2007:

hello,

i would like to ask what age is the youngest man who entered the Holy Orders..and who is he?

also is there a lay cardinal today?

thanks...

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 1/4/2008:

I am not sure if I understand your question. Generally, seminarians are admitted into the pre-theology program around the age of 18 and work toward an undergraduate degree in philosophy and appropriate ancillary studies. The seminarian then studies for around three to four years in an appropriate seminary. In the United States, of course, the average age of seminarians has increased owing to the fact that men are entering at older ages. According to statistics from the USCCB, in 2007 the average age for seminarians was 35; the youngest in the group was 25 and the oldest was 68. The average age for seminarians in 1993 was 32; it was 25 in 1966.

The ages tend to be lower for their average in many other countries, especially in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

There have been lay cardinals in the past, although it might be more correct to call them non-priest cardinals. What is meant by that title is simply a cardinal who is not an ordained priest. The status was abolished by Pope Benedict XV in 1916 when he made ordination a requirement for all cardinals. The last lay cardinal was Teodolfo Cardinal Mertel, a lawyer who was created a cardinal by Pope Bl. Pius IX in 1858. He was ordained a deacon the day after his appointment and died in 189l; he took part in the conclave of 1878 that elected Pope Leo XIII.

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