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Tuesday
Feb122013

Sede Vacante – the vacant seat

http://monkallover.blogspot.comOn February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI will cease to lead the Catholic Church as its Petrine vicar. What happens next?

Some facts      

The pope is the Bishop of Rome. Vatican City is its own government; the pope is the head of Vatican City. When he resigns, the pope’s ‘seat’ in his cathedral church becomes vacant. The cathedral church of the bishop of Rome is the Basilica of St. John Lateran and not St. Peter’s Basilica, as many people think. St. Peter Basilica acts as the mother ship for the entire Catholic Church and papal liturgies. St. John’s is the bishop of Rome’s local church. He just happens to be the same person – the pope.

Here are the links to both of these magnificent churches.

St. John Lateran http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_giovanni/vr_tour/index-en.html

St. Peter http://saintpetersbasilica.org/

Interregnum: the gap period

During the election of a new pope, most of the cardinals who serve as the Vatican’s administration known as the Roman Curia resign their offices. The Holy See – those associated with the pope in the governing of Vatican City and the Roman Catholic Church administer the affairs of church and state in a limited capacity until a new pope is elected.

Three key ordained priests who serve as administrators remain to manage property and money affairs (the carmerlengo), the pastoral needs of the citizens of Rome (the vicar of Rome) and the administrator who issues absolutions and dispensations (major penitentiary). The pope’s personal representatives in foreign nations (papal legates) continue to exercise their diplomatic roles overseas.

The coat of arms of the Holy See also changes during this period. Instead of the papal tiara over the keys, the tiara is replaced with the papal umbrella (umbraculum) to signify the lack of papal presence and governance by the Carmelengo over the church’s governance. Any extraordinary decisions that need papal approval during the conclave are brought to the cardinals within the conclave.

Conclave 

The cardinals are literally sealed in during a conclave, which means ‘with a key.’ The custom began with Pope Gregory X (Council of Lyons, 1274) to discourage long vacancies prompted by political interference. More than half of the church’s papal conclaves have been sealed with a key since then. While they wait to be locked within the Sistine Chapel during the conclave, the College of Cardinals gather every day in general assembly to pray, deliberate and discern who will best serve as the Vicar of Christ.

During pre-conclave and conclave sessions, the cardinals live in the Casa Santa Marta (House of St. Martha) inside Vatican walls. They meet to vote in the Sistine Chapel, adjoining St. Peter’s Basilica.

No cardinal may leave the conclave while in session other than illness or other grave reasons and with the approval of the other cardinals. The cardinals and anyone who attends them during the conclave (health care professionals, spiritual directors and confessors, liturgical assistants, housekeeping and food service staff) must take an oath to never reveal what they may learn about the election.

Veni, Creator Spiritus – Come, Holy Spirit

The morning of the conclave, the cardinals celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by an afternoon procession in full ecclesial regalia to the Sistine Chapel. As they walk in procession in order of seniority, the cardinals chant the ninth-century Latin hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus, asking for the guidance and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to guide the conclave and subsequent election.

Extra omnes - all out

The master of pontifical liturgical celebrations calls out “Extra omnes,” which literally orders all non-essential personal out of the Sistine Chapel. The doors are locked, sealed and the conclave begins.

I elect as Supreme Pontiff

Divided by rank, balloting begins by selecting three cardinals who will count the votes, three others who will collect the votes and three others who review the ballot count. To insure against deception, cardinals may print or disguise his handwriting. Each cardinal casts his vote on a two-inch-wide card with the Latin phrase “Eligo in Summum Pontificem” (I elect as Supreme Pontiff) on the top and folds the ballot in two to conceal the choice.

Under God’s eye

One by one, each cardinal walks to the main altar in the Sistine Chapel with his ballot and kneels to pray. When he rises, he prays aloud, “I call as my witness Christ the Lord, who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one whom, before God, I think should be elected.” The cardinal places his ballot on a paten, which covers a large chalice and drops his ballot into the vessel.  After all of the cardinals vote, the ballots are counted and matched to the number of electors. If the numbers do not align, the vote must be redone.

If the number of ballots is correct, the ballots are counted and the names of the nominees are called aloud while someone records the name. The cardinals may also keep their own ‘tally’ sheets. (Keeping track of nominees and numbers becomes difficult until the vote comes down to the wire.)

When all the ballots are counted, the total number of votes each nominee received is announced. This indicates to the cardinals how their assembly is thinking and discerning. If a candidate receives a majority of two-thirds of the votes, that person is elected pope. If not, a new vote begins

Holy smoke

 Since the early part of the 20th century, the ballots are burned in a unique stove that signals to the world that the voting has been successful of not. If the voting is unsuccessful, the ballots are burned with wet straw that send up black smoke. If the voting is successful, the ballots are burned alone and send white smoke that indicates that the church has a new pope.

The only remaining record of the voting is a document that the camerlengo prepares at the end of the election giving the results of each session. The document is approved by the assisting cardinals, given to the new pope and then placed in a sealed envelope in the archives to be opened only with papal permission.

A new vicar of Christ

The newly elected pope is asked, “Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?” The nominee must accept election to become pope. Once he accepts, the new pope is asked what he wishes to be called. This custom began 1,000 years ago, and remains in effect. Names signify where the new pontiff will lead the Church; everything that the new pope does serves the Petrine ministry.

The cardinals greet their new leader, profess obedience and service and pray in gratitude and thanksgiving for the pope and the church.  

Habemus papam - we have a pope

We’ve seen it since the first televised papal election of John XXIII in 1959. A senior cardinal appears on the center balcony of St. Peter’s Square and calls out “Habemus papam – we have a pope.” He announces the name of the new pope, who then emerges to welcome the hundreds of thousands of people cheering in St. Peter’s Square and watching from every corner of the world. The new pope gives his first blessing, the “urbi et orbi” to the world.

 O God,

       you guide your people with kindness,

       you govern them with love.

       Grant the spirit of wisdom

       to those you have called as teachers and guides,

       that your people may be led

       to understand the truth more fully

       and to please you by their growth in holiness.

       We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

       who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

       God for ever and ever.

Roman Missal, Prayers for Particular Needs of the Church 

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Reader Comments (1)

So how will our masses differ during the interregnum since we will not be praying for "Benedict our pope" as of 2/28/13.

February 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan Pettigrew Wilse

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