This is only the second conclave of my lifetime and I was in high school for the first one. I think because Pope John Paul II was Pope for all of my life leading up to that point it had never really occurred to me how a person BECOMES a pope. I had no idea there was so much that I didn't know.
Now here I am in my twenties and the Church is about to elect a new Pope. And I am STILL amazed at how much I don't know. I witnessed (on TV) a historical moment in the Church when Pope Benedict XVI left Saint Peter's in Rome and when the Swiss guards walked away from him for the last time. I will probably always get goosebumps thinking about that moment.
Soon all the Cardinals of the world will gather in the ancient city of Rome and they will be locked and guarded in the Sistine Chapel until they reach a decision. This is quite possibly the greatest decision they will ever make. For some it is not the first time they have been to the conclave (which literally means "under lock and key") but for others this may be the first and last.
This week I learned a lot about this whole process though I am sure there is so much more to it. I learned that the Pope's ring known as "the Fisherman's Ring" will be smashed and destroyed along with all the principal seals of office. This is so that they cannot be used during the period of "sede vacante" which means "vacant seat." I don't know why but the phrase makes me sad. I want that seat to be filled.
Also, I learned that if you are a Cardinal over the age of 80 then they don't let you vote! In the Apostolic Constitution (which I didn't know existed) it says that the max number of voters should be 120 and if you exclude the cardinals currently over the age of 80 and a few others not attending due to health we will have 115 Cardinals casting their ballots... that's cutting it pretty close! I am thinking there must be some Divine Intervention that helps them keep that rule but who knows.
I read in a great article here about all the traditions that occur on the morning before the conclave. They have a special mass for the election of the new pope and they chant a Latin hymn, "Veni Creator Spiritus" and then they head to the Sistine Chapel where they swear an oath of secrecy and the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations (how would you like to have that title!?) shouts, "Extra omnes!" Everyone else, out!
And all the billion other Catholics wait for the white smoke.
Dark smoke indicates they have voted but not come to a conclusion as they must reach a two-thirds majority for the vote to be conclusive. The smoke comes from burning the ballots. If they don't have a clear selection after 3 days they basically take a day off. Can you imagine how exhausting it would be to be in that Chapel for three days without a conclusion? After the "day off" they resume... and we wait.
Fun fact: The next Pope doesn't HAVE TO be a Cardinal. Yeah... it blew my mind too. It is highly unlikely that they would choose someone that is NOT a Cardinal, I guess. But this is the Holy Spirit we are talking about! Things happen.
Also, when they DO reach a decision. The man selected is asked if he accepts (which he can decline) and if he does they ask him right then and there what name he will go by and he is immediately the Pope. There isn't a grace period like in the USA with the time between election day and the inauguration. He is Pope just like that. That would stress me out... which is why they are holy people and I am over here hoping for a fraction of their holiness. THEN, they go put on the white Papal vestments and the Cardinals sing a joyful hymn and....
"Habemus Papam" "We have a Pope!"
I obviously know very little seeing as I will never be a part of it but I think our generation has an advantage. I believe these men in red are holy but they need our prayers and this is a situation where I feel like the media can be used to our advantage. This is our opportunity to learn and to grow and to be ONE. This is not a time to be divisive.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga is among some of the popular names mentioned in ramblings by the media as a possible successor. The Cardinal told Catholic New Service that he will be looking for "a person of faith, a person of love with a big heart to understand, especially, the human sufferings of today and to understand we are only servants, not kings."
|Cardinal DiNardo and myself a few years ago.|
This is so exciting and can hardly contain myself! Seriously... I realize I'm kind of a nerdy Catholic but this is AMAZING! Doesn't it make you proud to be a part of it?! I just can't believe the strength of these Cardinals to be a part of such a thing. My prayers will be going out to them! Let's all do that :)
PS- Who wants to have a Conclave Watch Party? Cuz I do.