Where do we go from here?

Q&A: Where do we go from here?

22 February 2013


Where will the Pope live?

At 5pm Rome-time on 28 February Pope Benedict XVI will travel by helicopter to his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. His resignation will take effect at 19:00 GMT. He will remain there until the conclave elects his successor.

After that he, and much of his retinue will move to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the south-west corner of Vatican City. The Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said he thought that the Pope’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein would move there with him, although curiously, Gänswein will also be the prefect of the new pope’s household.

Some of the Vatican’s 27 gardeners will work a 500-square-metre organic fruit and vegetable garden for which the monastery is known. The Pope is known to be partial to the marmalade made by the contemplative nuns who moved out of there in October.

What role will he play?

Following his resignation Pope Benedict will have no administrative or official duties and he will not participate in the conclave to elect his successor.

Pope Benedict said when he announced his resignation that he will spend his time praying for the Church. However the unprecedented situation of a living former pope residing a stone’s throw from the seat of power raises questions. The Pope’s elder brother, Mgr Georg Ratzinger, has already said Benedict (or whatever we will call him by then) would be happy to advise his successor if necessary. Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said: “The new Pope will, I think, be very glad if he can sometimes sit down and talk with his predecessor and ask him for advice.” He may feel an obligation to speak out or agitate behind the scenes if his successor’s actions worried him sufficiently.

The Vatican’s spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, said the Pope will spend his time praying, studying and writing. When he has the time, the Pope Benedict enjoys reading, playing the piano and watching DVDs of black and white comedies.

What will he be called?

The Vatican’s senior communications adviser, Greg Burke, said that he would probably be referred to as “Bishop of Rome, emeritus” which would suggest dropping the name Benedict and returning to Joseph Ratzinger. Other Vatican officials have said that the Pope may retain the honorific “Your Holiness”, much in the same way that retired US presidents are still referred to as President.

What will happen to Pope’s ring?

Pope Benedict’s papal ring, the Ring of the Fisherman and the symbol of papal authority, will be broken up with a silver hammer designated for the purpose. This is done in the presence of other cardinals by the Camerlengo (the administrator of property and revenues of the Holy See). According to the Vatican: “Objects strictly tied to the ministry of St Peter must be destroyed.”

What will he wear?

Fr Lombardi has said that the question of whether the Pope will continue to wear the traditional white papal vestments “needs study”. He acknowledged that the white vestments have a symbolic value in the public imagination.

What happens to the Curia when a Pope dies or resigns?

Almost all curial offices must be reappointed, with the exception of the Camerlengo and the Major Penitentiary. Secretaries remain in place to keep day to day business ticking over. Church governance passes to the College of Cardinals, but only for the dispatch of ordinary business or matters that cannot be postponed. No laws can be made or abolished.

Who gets to elect the Pope’s successor?

All cardinals who are under 80 years of age when the Pope’s resignation comes into effect on 28 February are eligible to vote.

There are at present 118 cardinal electors out of a maximum of 120. Sixty-seven of these were appointed by Pope Benedict. Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar turns 80 on 26 February and will not be eligible to vote in the conclave. Barring a last minute consistory to create new cardinals, it is likely that the conclave will consist of 117 cardinals.

The three cardinals who turn 80 in March (Cardinals Walter Kasper, Severino Poletto and Juan Sandoval Iniguez) – that is, between the Pope’s resignation and the conclave – will be eligible to vote.

Who will represent the Church in England and Wales in the 2013 conclave?

Sore point. England and Wales does not currently have a cardinal of voting age. Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, turned 80 on 24 August and became ineligible to vote.The current Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, has not yet received a red hat. Britain therefore will be represented by Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Ireland (Northern and the Republic) by Cardinal Sean Brady.

What if a cardinal cannot attend?

Cardinals who are legitimately impeded by circumstances such as illness and extreme weather are exempt. Postal voting is not an option.

When does voting start?

Traditionally a conclave must start 15 to 20 days after a Pope’s death – or, in this case, resignation. The earliest that the 2013 conclave can start is 15 March.

How long does the process take?

There is no maximum time limit – the conclave lasts until a new pope is elected. But Fr Lombardi has said that the Church can expect to have a new pope by Easter, 31 March.

After the first evening ballot, the next day they begin voting twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.

The 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict took just 24 hours. He was elected on the fourth ballot.

How does voting work?

A vote is held in the Sistine Chapel on the afternoon of the first day of conclave, once every one who is not a cardinal elector has been expelled. If no candidate receives the required two-thirds plus one majority, the electors vote again the next morning.

From then on there are two votes a day, in between which electors pray and reflect. The cardinal-electors stay in single en-suite rooms in a guesthouse within the Vatican, and travel by bus to and from the Sistine Chapel.

Every morning and evening “scrutineers” are chosen by lot to count and recount the votes, folded ballot cards dropped into a silver dish or paten.

Once counted, the ballots are burned by the scrutineers with the addition of special chemicals to make the smoke white or black: white smoke signifies the election of a pope, black smoke indicates an inconclusive vote.

If a pope has not been elected within 13 days – which would mean after 33 or 34 rounds of voting – run-off ballots between the two leading candidates are held. The two leading cardinals, who must still secure a two-thirds plus one majority to win, cannot vote in the run-off ballots.

What happens when a clear winner emerges?

Immediately after the ballots have been checked, and before the voting cardinals leave the Sistine Chapel, all the ballots are burnt by the scrutineers, with the assistance of the Secretary of the Conclave and the Masters of Ceremonies who in the meantime have been summoned by the junior cardinal deacon.

The cardinal dean, or the cardinal who is first in order of seniority in the college of electors, in this case Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, asks the one elected: “Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff? And as soon as he has received the consent, he asks him: “By what name do you wish to be called?” Then the master of papal liturgical celebrations, acting as notary, draws up a document certifying acceptance by the new pope, and the name taken by him.

The new pope is clothed in the papal attire (there are sets in three different sizes to hand).

Finally, the Senior Deacon of the College of Cardinals (the protodeacon), in this case Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, steps out onto the central loggia or outer balcony of St Peter’s Basilica and exclaims: “Habemus Papam” (“We have a Pope!”). After the cardinal announces the name, the new pope steps onto the balcony himself and gives his first “Urbi et Orbi” blessing to the city and the world.