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How a new pope will be chosen

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/pope/story/0,12272,1451334,00.html How a new pope will be chosen Arrangements for John Paul s funeral, the interregnum and the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2005

      How a new pope will be chosen

      Arrangements for John Paul's funeral, the interregnum
      and the election of a new pontiff will follow a
      long-established pattern

      John Hooper in Rome, Stephen Bates and Rory Carroll
      Saturday April 2, 2005

      The death of the Pope has set in train an anomalous
      interlude, during which the world's 1 billion Roman
      Catholics will be without a leader and mourning for
      the dead pontiff will co-exist uneasily with fervid
      preparations for the election of his successor.

      Archaic ritual will be much to the fore, masking the
      Vatican's growing use of modern technology and

      Two men will take the key roles during the next two to
      three weeks before a new pope is chosen: a Spaniard
      close to the conservative Opus Dei fellowship, and a
      German who, for more than 20 years, has been the
      church's theological watchdog.

      Cardinal Eduardo Mart�nez Somalo is the head of the
      Vatican "ministry" responsible for religious orders.
      He also holds the title of Camerlengo, or chamberlain,
      of the Holy Roman Church. That title only acquires
      substance at the moment a pope draws his last breath.

      At that point, the Cardinal Camerlengo becomes a sort
      of interim administrator, although in no sense an
      "acting pope".

      His first duty is to decide that the Pope has really
      died. Traditionally, this was done in the presence of
      the Papal Master of Ceremonies, and various other
      members of the pontifical household, by tapping the
      pope on the forehead with a silver hammer and calling
      out his baptismal name three times to see whether
      there was any response. A veil was also sometimes
      placed over the pontiff's face to check that he was no
      longer breathing.

      Cardinal Mart�nez is more likely to have relied on the
      judgment of the pope's team of doctors. But his
      chamberlain's silver hammer will not lie idle, for its
      other use is break the Fisherman's Ring - the
      pontiff's individualised signet ring - to ensure that
      no instructions are given out under his seal after his

      The Cardinal Camerlengo must inform the Cardinal Vicar
      for Rome - who, in turn, announces the death to the
      people of the city - and tell the other key figure in
      the interregnum, the Dean of the College of Cardinals,
      whose job it is to inform his fellow-cardinals, heads
      of state and the ambassadors accredited to the Holy

      Since 2002, the Dean of the College of Cardinals has
      been Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a former archbishop of
      Munich and the head of the "ministry" in the Vatican
      that helps to shape Catholic doctrine and keeps an eye
      out for maverick Catholic theologians.

      The chamberlain arranges for the death of the pope to
      be certified and his body to be removed. He then locks
      off the pontiff's apartment within the Vatican to
      ensure that his possessions do not fall into the wrong

      There was a time when there was a danger of the people
      of Rome looting the pope's residence after his death
      and, although that risk may have disappeared, there
      are intelligence chiefs and newspaper editors who
      would pay handsomely for a peek at some of the most
      private documents in existence.

      Some souvenir hunters would no doubt do the same to
      own something, however intrinsically valueless, that
      was once the property of St Peter's successor.

      The Cardinal Camerlengo's next job is to arrange for
      the funeral, and it is at this point that he will
      start to coordinate his work with the cardinals. These
      "princes of the church" were originally papal advisers
      named from among the deacons and priests of Rome and
      the bishops whose dioceses were close enough to the
      city for them to be able to get to the pope when their
      counsel was needed.

      Nowadays, the cardinals are senior prelates from all
      over the world, but still the tradition is maintained
      of designating them on appointment to one of three
      orders so that they become either cardinal-deacons,
      cardinal-priests or cardinal-bishops.

      In consultation with the heads of the three orders of
      cardinals, the chamberlain arranges for nine days of
      official mourning, the lying in state of the pope's
      body in St Peter's Basilica, and his burial, which -
      in normal circumstances - takes place between four and
      six days after his death.

      Popes have traditionally been interred in St Peter's,
      but popes have almost always been Italians, and Karol
      Wojtyla was not. It remains to be seen whether Pope
      John Paul has left instructions for his body to be
      returned to his native Poland.

      Immediately a pope's death becomes known, the Roman
      Catholic church's central administration, known as the
      Curia, goes into deep-freeze. The heads of all the
      Vatican's departments will cease to perform their
      functions, with day to day business being taken over
      by more junior officials, called Secretaries.

      The Cardinal Camerlengo will convene and chair a
      four-strong board of his fellow cardinals, called the
      Particular Congregation, to oversee their activities.

      Important decisions, however, will be left to the
      College of Cardinals, which is presided over by
      Cardinal Ratzinger.

      Neither he nor the cardinals as a group, though, have
      the power to take decisions that would normally
      correspond to those taken by a pope.

      So, just as the chamberlain is not an acting pontiff,
      nor is the College of Cardinals a temporary collegiate
      leadership in any but the most limited sense. There is
      no danger of anyone naming new bishops or slipping in
      a change of doctrine.

      Meetings of all the cardinals already in Rome can be
      expected to begin soon, and their numbers will swell
      as others fly in from across the world, at the bidding
      of the Cardinal Camerlengo, for the election of a new

      The summons can be brusque: the telegram dispatched by
      Cardinal Villot, chamberlain at the time of Paul VI's
      death in 1978, said simply: "The Pope is dead. Come at once."
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