||When a Pope
dies,1 the "Cardinal Camerlengo" (Cardinal
Chamberlain, known as the "Camerarius" in Latin) first verifies the death.
Traditionally, this is done by striking the Pope's forehead gently thrice
with a silver hammer while asking him, using his Baptismal name, if he is
dead, e.g., "Karol Wojtyla, are you dead?" When there is no response from
the dead Pope, the Camerlengo solemnly announces his death and removes the
Fisherman's ring from the dead Pope's finger. This ring, along with the papal
seal, are broken, and the Pope's bedroom and study are sealed up. The bronze
doors of St. Peter's Basilica are closed, while its bells toll the death,
and all the bells of Rome join in.
The Camerlengo (who is now in charge of the Church until a new Pope is elected)
arranges the funeral. First, the Pope will lie in state in St. Peter's Basilica
and will then be buried on either the 5th , 6th, or 7th day of the Novenendiales.
There will be a funeral Mass, to and from which his body -- placed in a cypress
coffin -- will be borne by white-gloved "Gentlemen of His Holiness," lay
Italian nobility who are members of families that have served such purposes
His body will be put inside three coffins ultimately:
the first made
of cypress, signifying his humanity
the second of lead
and inscribed with a skull and crossbones. Inside this coffin the broken
papal seal and documents describing his papacy are placed.
the third made
of elm, signifying dignity of the papal office and on which is placed a plaque
indicating his name and the date of his pontificate
He is then interred
in a crypt underneath St. Peter's Basilica. During the nine-day period of
mourning, known as novendiales, that follows the Pope's funeral a novena
of Masses is said.
Most of the dicasteries of the Curia are suspended from operation during
this all this time and until a new Pope is elected; only the very basic,
day to day functions of "the Vatican" are carried out. Arrangements are made
by the Camerlengo to elect a new Pope.
After choosing three assistant Cardinals, the Camerlengo will call a Conclave
which will meet in the Sistine Chapel. The Conclave will consist of 120 Cardinal
electors and takes its name from the Latin words "cum clave" -- "with a key."
This gathering is so-called because it is conducted under the utmost secrecy,
the Cardinals at one time being literally locked into the Sistine Chapel,
where the voting takes place, until they came to a decision (nowadays they
sleep in more comfortable quarters in the Vatican at night). The election
process must begin between 15 and 20 days after the death. Upon entering
the Conclave, the Cardinals swear an oath of secrecy, the penalties for breaking
being automatic excommunication. The secrecy of the Conclave is taken so
seriously, that the Cardinals cannot communicate with anyone in the outside
world as it goes on, and even windows are painted over so they can't see
out. Newspapers, television, radio -- all are disallowed.
The Cardinal Dean will read the following oath:
We, the Cardinals
of Holy Roman Church, of the Order of Bishops, of Priests and of Deacons,
promise, pledge and swear, as a body and individually, to observe exactly
and faithfully all the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution Universi
Dominici Gregis of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, and to maintain rigorous
secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of
the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy
of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.
Each Cardinal affirms
this oath by saying:
And I, N_____ Cardinal
N_____ so promise, pledge and swear.
He places his hand
on the Gospels and adds:
So help me God
and these Holy Gospels which I now touch with my hand.
Once in the Sistine
Chapel, another oath is taken. The Cardinal Dean will read the following
We, the Cardinal
electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge
and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously
the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme
Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February
1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine
disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying
out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail
to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the
liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe
with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy
regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman
Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly
or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear
not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election
of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same
Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition
or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever
order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene
in the election of the Roman Pontiff.
Each Cardinal elector
And I, N_____ Cardinal
N_____, do so promise, pledge and swear.
Placing his hand
on the Gospels, he will add:
So help me God
and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.
The Cardinal electors
(who, since Pope Paul VI, must be under the age of 80 to serve as electors
2) are given paper ballots inscribed
with the words, "Eligo in suumum pontificem" ("I elect as Supreme Pontiff")
with an area for them to write in their preference. These ballots are placed
on the Altar by each Cardinal in order of seniority. The Cardinal will kneel
and say aloud, "I call to witness the Lord Christ, who will be my judge,
that I am electing the one whom, under God, I think ought to be elected."
He then places the ballot on a paten, slides it into a large chalice, bows
to the Altar, and returns to his seat.
These ballots are read aloud first by the Camerlengo, by each of his three
assistants, and then tallied. When the ballots arrive at the third assistant,
they are bound together by needle and thread. If no person has received a
2/3 vote, there is another vote. If still no Pope has been elected, the ballots
are burned along with straw so that the smoke is black; if a Pope has been
elected, the paper is burned alone so that the smoke is white. Crowds and
media personnel gather at the Vatican to watch for those black or white smoke
signals as they are the only way for the Conclave to communicate with the
outside world until an official announcement of an election is made.
If after voting for three days, no Pope has been elected, a day is taken
to rest, pray, and discuss. When voting is resumed, if seven more days pass
with no decision being made, another day of rest and prayer is taken. Another
series of seven ballots is held, followed by another day of rest and prayer,
if necessary. Then again, another series of seven ballots is held. At this
point, if still no Pope is elected, they may elect a Pope by absolute majority
(i.e., 50%+1 instead of the 2/3 majority) or decide to vote only on the two
candidates who ranked first and second in the most recent tally (this, too,
is a novelty).
Once a Pope is elected, the elected person is asked by the Cardinal Dean:
Do you accept your
canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?
He is then asked:
By what name do
you wish to be called?
If he accepts,
he becomes Pope and goes to a room called "The Room of Tears" to be vested
in white soutane. The room is called this because so many new Popes break
down and weep as they ponder the enormity of the sacred responsibilites they
have assumed. Spiritual father to a billion Catholics! Shepherd of
souls! Vicar of Christ!
He is introduced to the world with the words, spoken by the senior Cardinal
gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam. Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum ___ Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem___ qui sibi nomen imposuit
(I announce to you a great joy. We have a Pope. The most eminent and reverend
Lord, the Lord ___ Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church who takes to himself
the name ___.)
Listen to a .wav
file of the announcement of John
Paul I's papacy.
The new Pope goes
to the balcony to impart an Apostolic blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (which means
"For the City and the World"), and the crowd cheers "Viva il Papa!" ("Long
live the Pope!").
A few days later,
the first Papal Mass will be held at St. Peter's. On the way to the Altar,
the procession stops three times and, at each, a piece of flax mounted on
a reed is burned. As the flames die, the Pope hears the words, "Pater sancte,
sic transit gloria mundi" ("Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world")
to remind him that he is, indeed, a man, a mere mortal.
Note: Any Catholic man can become Pope, whether he is a priest or not, but
most times, the new Pope will come from the Cardinalate and has long been
considered "papabile" (able and likely enough to be elected Pope).
1 Just a little cultural side-note: there's a monument
to Pope Sylvester II (A.D. 950 - 1003) in the Basilica of St. John Lateran
in Rome. Before a Pope dies, this monument is said to "cry" -- its marble
said to moisten or "sweat."
In my opinion,
arranging things such that no Cardinal over the age of 80 could elect a Pope
was done to keep the then-Traditional older Cardinals from having a say.
The man elected could well be over 80! This rule, however, might come back
to haunt the liberals; the younger seminarians of today are much more
"conservative" than those of the last few previous generations, and if they
have the intelligence and fortitude to learn what has not been taught to
them and to proclaim Tradition, the rule might serve its opposite intended
effect more quickly.
originally were members of the Roman Curia, theologians especially honored
by the Pope, deacons who assist in the papal household, and the deacons who
administer to the Roman dioceses. They were not members of the electing College