The papal conclave that will be held next week has had its share of rumors including competitions between Italian and non-Italian cardinals, cardinals who want access to classified Vatican documents, and several lists with names of potential papal candidates. On Saturday, one of few sources of official information on the Vatican hinted to reporters, according to Huff Post, about the mood inside the general meetings held before the conclave on Tuesday. As Rev. Fredrico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, explained in a brief statement to the the press there’s no reason to believe it will take long for a new pope to be chosen suggesting there may be a frontrunner or multiple frontrunners which could indicate that a new pope could be elected before Friday. If the past is a good indicator, this may very well be true as both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II were elected in two days. On Saturday, despite rumors on Friday when the date for the conclave was announced and Vatican reporters suggested that Italian cardinals wanted an earlier date to influence the vote before all the cardinals had arrived, during a briefing with Lombardi he denied any huge discussions among cardinals about when to start voting according to the Huff Post. Including Saturday, cardinals have met a total of nine times in General Congregation during pre-conclave meeting to discuss church priorities and a conclave date which Lombardi commented on Saturday that the cardinals decided on March 12 for the conclave with a 10 to 1 margin. There will be no General Congregation on Sunday but will resume on Monday to discuss hopes for the new pope, regional development in the church and improving the curia which is dominated by Italian cardinals.
The spokesman for the Vatican also detailed the timeline for the voting process. Cardinals have already drawn lots for rooms on Saturday for Casa Santa Marta, a guarded Vatican residence, where they will stay during the conclave. Tuesday morning, they will move to the Sistine Chapel through the connected Pauline Chapel where the Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice (“for the Election of the Roman Pontiff”) will happen at 10 a.m. proceeded by the oath of secrecy at 4:30 p.m. in the Sistine Chapel. After the oath, anyone not involved with the voting will be asked to leave, then the cardinals will listen to Maltese Cardinal Prospero Grech about conclave responsibilities and will vote up to two times. At 7 p.m. prayer will happen and 7:30 return to Casa Santa Marta. Aside from Tuesday, the cardinals will be voting four times a day until two thirds votes or 77 votes are received to elect the new pope. Every time their is a vote and whether the winning vote is taken will determine the color of the smoke which is white for a new pope and black for no pope elected. Before the white smoke can be released, the new pope must accept the position according to Lombardi who also says if the smoke is released at night then the Sistine Chapel chimney will be lit up. If no pope is chosen by Friday, then the cardinals on Saturday will reflect and pray resuming their voting for three days with one day break until the 34th voting round where the two top candidates will have a runoff. When the pope is chosen and white smoke rises, as when Benedict was chosen, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica will ring which according to Lombardi took about 40 minutes between the two in 2005. On the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the senior cardinal deacon, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran will shout “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a new pope!” and will present the new pope with the white papal cassocks to give his first blessing as pope.
On Friday, the Vatican announced that the College of Cardinals will begin the papal conclave meeting to elect the next pope on Tuesday afternoon March 12 where all cardinals under 80 years old will be eligible to vote for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s successor leaving 115 cardinals to decide at the Sistine Chapel who will be the new leader of the Catholic Church. The cardinals will vote up to four times a day until two thirds which is 77 cardinals agree on the next pope. In the last conclave that lead to Benedict’s election in 2005, the vote only took two days because the cardinals agreed on the election however the conclave could last much longer if there is no consensus. According to the Vatican press office, “The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013….A pro eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning. In the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the Conclave.” Benedict changed the rules of the conclave before he resigned Feb. 28 allowing the cardinals to start it earlier than usual especially since these are special circumstances. The Cardinals have already met eight times since Monday to talk about church priories and pick a date, but the delay in deciding a date occurred because some cardinals had yet to arrive at the Vatican until the last three days. Even before the conclave, cardinals will continue to meet in General Congregations on Saturday and Monday. After the conclave begins on Tuesday, the cardinals will be guarded in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a Vatican residence, when not in conclave and will not be able to contact anyone outside the conclave including cell phones, media, and Internet.
Cardinals will cast four ballots each day that will be burned twice daily and the smoke from the Sistine Chapel will determine the outcome, with black smoke meaning no agreement has been reached and white smoke indicating a new leader has been chosen. As of yet, no clear front runner has emerged even though a handful of cardinals are rumored to be running, but according to Huff Post Italy on Friday two cardinals have been the focus of press this week which are Brazilian-born Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer and the Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola as well as two Americans, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, are also considered long-shot candidates. Several of the cardinals who will vote in the conclave and are potential pope candidates are from Europe. Lombardi on Friday also showed where the new pope will sleep his first night and for several weeks while the papal apartment where Benedict lived is renovated. The apartment was sealed after the resignation and church rules state it can’t be opened again until the new pope is elected.
Now that the pope has resigned to a life of prayer and meditation at the summer retreat and soon back at the Vatican, the search for his successor has now begun. According to father Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the press office of the Holy See, the first general congregation of the day failed to come up with a date for the conclave but the cardinals, all except one of the 115 electoral cardinals, will meet again this afternoon. After the media confusion yesterday, when parallel press conferences organized by American cardinals were cancelled, it has become clear that inside Paolo VI Hall where the congregations us being held the mood feels dire as the decision to set a date has been delayed. The mood surrounding the events outside the congregation were no better the past few days as the atmosphere has soured with cardinals rushing past ignoring the journalists and photographers. As the International Herald Tribune reports that the situation at the Vatican can be considered a culture clash as the U.S. cardinals will comply with the request of the College of Cardinal’s to refrain from talking to the press. However, an official press realease from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, head of the press office for the conference of U.S. cardinals, revealed that the cardinals are very upset by the request saying,”The U.S cardinals are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public, in order to inform while ensuring the confidentiality of the General Congregations.” Therefore, among the U.S. cardinals which totals 11 the consensus starting today is to honor the request for silence from the Curia Romana. According to U.S. delegation, the leaks in the Italian newspapers which upset the Holy See were not dependent on the U.S. cardinals who organized a press conference where little of the private discussion between more than 150 cardinals emerged, but was directly due to undesirable leaks from Italian cardinals talking to newspapers they trust according to the International Herald Tribune. The lies being told are due to enormous differences in journalistic practices and traditions such as American newspapers using anonymous sources as an exception or as an option to use carefully and judicially where as the Italian papers use the practice arguably to the point of abused and is widely accepted. Today, may be the last interview allowed prior to election of a new pope.
On Wednesday with the same fan fare as when he came in as pope, Pope Benedict addressed an estimated 150,000 people at St. Peter’s Square as he bids an emotional farewell to his flock stating that he understood the weight of his decision but in his heart felt that it was for the good of the Roman Catholic Church. His final audience was the day before he steps down as pope and live a life of meditation and prayer safely behind the Vatican walls in a renovated monastery. Benedict told the faithful that the crisis hit papacy had moments of joy but also difficulty when, “It seemed like the Lord was sleeping and “There were moments when the waters were choppy and there were headwinds.” The speech given from an ivory throne on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica were interrupted by applause from the crowds and when it was done he finished his speech the crowd and his red hatted cardinals gave him a standing ovation. Benedict will abdicate as pope on Thursday night as the cardinals begin their consultations ahead of the conclave to choose the new pope. During his speech to the faithful he commented on the future of the torubled church by saying: “I took this step in the full knowledge of its gravity and rarity but with a profound serenity of spirit” and that loving the church meant, “having the courage to take difficult and anguished choices, always having in mind the good of the church and not oneself.” An enormous crowd from Italy and abroad came together in the square in the early morning for the mid wek audience that is normally held inside but was moved outside to accommodate the faithful who wanted to see the pope one last time. Even with the ongoing church conficts from within and from scandals outside, many were supportive of the pope and his decision as Sister Carmela, who came to see the pope with fellow nuns from her nothern Italy parish, said,”He did what he had to do in his conscience before God…This is a day in which we are called to trust in the Lord, a day of hope. There is no room for sadness here today. We have to pray, there are many problems in the Church but we have to trust in the Lord.” To be fair, not all agreed with Sister Carmela, Peter McNamara, a 61 Australian of Irish descent, commented that,” He’s a disaster. It’s good for everyone that he resigned.” Like many McNamara came to witness history being made. The Vatican said that Benedict after his retirement will assume the title of “pope emeritus” and be addressed as “your holiness”. He will wear brown loafers made for him by a shoemaker in Mexico and a simple white cassock according to Lombardi. On Thursday, Benedict will greet the cardinals in Rome whom will elect the next pope before he fly by helicopter to the papal summer retreat at 5p.m. 15 minutes from Rome. When he arrives, he will make an appearance from the window of the papal villa to greet his well wishers which will be his last audience. At 8 p.m. the Swiss Guard will march off as a sign that the papacy is vacant. On Friday, cardinals will meet in a general congregation to prepare for the conclaves. This week Benedict changed the Church rule so cardinals could begin the conclaves earlier than 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant allowing the cardinals to determine when it starts. The Vatican hopes to have a new pope elected by mid-March and installed before Palm Sunday March 24 so he can preside over Holy Week services leading to Easter. An informal consultation has begun already two weeks prior when Benedict said he was quitting between cardinals.
In these uncertain times we live in, no one can deny the powerful symbolism the pope has for millions of people around the world whether he leaves the world forever or with a heavy heart he is undeniably a symbol to the world. People can say whatever they want but that will never make people stop believing in something more and something bigger than ourselves. In a crowd of hundred thousand one girl stood out with a sign hoist above her head reading in Italian,””You are not alone, I’m also with you” that speaks to the true power of faith something that cannot waiver in truth or be denied by the world. On Sunday, the pope gave his final blessing on a cheering crowd in St. Peter’s Square explaining that his aging and health made him better suited for private prayer than to be the leader of the church. On Thursday, he will be the first pope in 600 years to resign from the papacy. Ten of thousands of the faithful have already asked for a seat in the square for his last general audience Wednesday as he gave his Sunday’s blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Benedict seemed relaxed and energized by the crowd’s emotional welcome, applause, and many banners of Thanks held by the crowd. He told the crowd that God called him to dedicate himself to prayer and meditation which he will do in a renovated monastery in the Vatican. Of his approaching departure from the papacy, Benedict said,”But this doesn’t mean abandoning the church…On the contrary, if God asks me, this is because I can continue to serve it (the church) with the same dedication and the same love which I have tried to do so until now, but in a way more suitable to my age and to my strength.” Benedict explained that,”Prayer is not isolating oneself from the world and its contradictions” as he heard God’s call to prayer “which gives breath to our spiritual life” in a special way “at this moment of my life.” As the crowd continued to cheer, the pontiff turned away from his window and stepped down into the apartment. On Thursday, he will be taking a helicopter to the Vatican summer residence outside Rome while he awaits the completion of renovations on the monastery where he will live according to the Associated Press. No date has been set for the conclave of cardinals who will vote in secret on Benedict’s successor. According to the Associated Press one Portuguese priest in the crowd, Rev, Vilmar Pavesi said, “Now there will be two popes. There will be the pope of Rome, the elected pope, and there will be the bishop emeritus of Rome, who will live the life of a monk inside the Vatican walls.” Flags from many nations were represented in the crowd with a large number from Brazil. Benedict in one of his last tweets wrote in English Sunday that, “In these momentous days, I ask you to pray for me and for the church, trusting as always in divine providence.”
Exciting time for everyone whether Catholic or not because most people only see one pope elected in the church I am young and this will be the second one. The election of new pope may happen sooner than March 15 according to the Vatican even though the rule requires 15 to 20 day waiting period after the papacy vacancy. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the rules are open for interpretation and any change to the law would have meet the approval of the pope before he leaves the office. However if Vatican officials determine its a question of interpreting existing laws then the college of cardinals on the first day of the papal vacancy can discuss moving up the conclave. The 15 to 20 day waiting period is to allow all the cardinals to arrive in Rome, but since the circumstances are unusual the cardinals already know the pope will resign Feb. 28 giving them plenty of time to take part in a conclave.
The date of the conclave’s start is important since the beginning of Holy Week March 24 with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter March 31. In order to elect a pope in time for one of the most important week on the church calendar the new pope would have to be installed by Sunday March 17 because of the strong tradition to hold installation Mass on Sunday. Many questions have arisen since the pope announced his retirement on Feb. 11, the first to do so in 600 years. The unique problem here is how to proceed given that usually the plans follow the papal death with a period between papacies are based on this process. Cardinal Franc Rode who will participate in the conclave said that right now the Vatican is not prepared and has not had the time to predict, strategize, plan or pick candidates yet but hopes everything will be in place in two or three weeks.
More details have emerged about Benedict’s final public audience and plans for retirements according to Lombardi who says that 35,000 people have requested tickets for his final general audience on Feb. 27 in St. Peter’s Square. He continued to explain that Benedict will spend two months at the papal summer retreat with him immediately after his abdication until his retirement home is finished- a converted monastery inside Vatican walls. Then he will return to the Vatican no longer as pope around the end of April beginning of May. As whether the pope would meet with his successor or participate in his installation Mass, Lombardi said that both issues are not resolved at this time.