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'Gray' matters: Catholic pope, Mormon apostles aging past 80

In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI leads a mass at the Vatican, Monday, April 16, 2012. The Pontiff celebrated a very Bavarian birthday Monday, marking his 85 years with his brother, German bishops and a musical band from his native land. Benedict began the day with a Mass in which he alluded to his own mortality, saying he would carry on his final years knowing that God was watching over him. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano)
Following Faith by Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kristen Moulton

First published Apr 16 2012 12:14PM
Updated Apr 16, 2012 01:02PM
Pope Benedict XVI turned 85 Monday.

For a Catholic pontiff, that's pretty old. Only seven popes have been older than that at the time of their death, according to Of those, the 20th century produced only one – Leo XIII, who died in 1903 at 93 – who was older than Benedict.

Like Catholic popes, Mormon prophets and apostles serve for life, which can lead to an old hierarchy.

In August, LDS leader Thomas S. Monson, considered a "prophet, seer and revelator" by Mormons, will turn 85. This year eight of the 15 top LDS leaders will be 80 or older.

That is among the oldest group in the 182-year history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died in 2008 at 97, defended the age of the Utah-based church's leaders.

"There are those who say, 'This is a gerontocracy. This is a church run by old men,'" said reporter Mike Wallace in a 1995 "60 Minutes" interview with Hinckley.

"Isn't it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment who isn't blown about by every wind of doctrine?" Hinckley replied.

"Absolutely, as long as he's not dotty," Wallace said.

"Thank you for the compliment," Hinckley said.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

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