Before white smoke, silence and big decisions-A A +A
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
THE election of the successor of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has parallel aspects to secular voting, but some facets of the process are deeply spiritual, officials explained.
Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said the cardinal-electors, all cardinals below 80 years, are not allowed to campaign so they can be chosen as the new pontiff.
“We pledge by the Bible, we say nothing (to each other) before, during and after the conclave,” said the 82-year-old prelate before he left for Rome last month.
The special mass for the election of a pope was celebrated last night, Philippine time, at the Vatican by Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano and concelebrated by all the cardinals, including the non-voters.
Cardinal Vidal had voted in the last conclave that elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who picked the name Pope Benedict XVI, almost eight years ago.
During the entire process, the cardinals, numbering 115 in this conclave, do not know each other personally so they are encouraged to spend time with each other, Vidal said.
“No campaigning, that’s not like what we do here. I went with the English-speaking or Spanish-speaking group,” he said.
“It is different when choosing a spiritual leader. It’s the Holy Spirit (that guides the cardinal-electors),” he added.
The policy has its basis in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Domini Gregis, on the vacancy of the Apostolic See and the election of the Roman Pontiff. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote it.
In part, it states: “I earnestly exhort the cardinal electors not to allow themselves to be guided, in choosing the Pope, by friendship or aversion, or to be influenced by favor or personal relationships toward anyone or to be constrained by the interference of persons in authority or by pressure groups, by the suggestions of the mass media, or by force, fear or the pursuit of popularity,” said the pontiff in the document.
The last conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Vidal said, was one of the fastest.
Benedict XVI was elected pope in the fourth ballot of the conclave that lasted two days, from April 18 to 19, with 115 present.
According to the Vatican News Service, the longest papal election took place in Viterbo, Italy in 1268 and ended with the election of Gregory X. The process lasted for over two years.
It was as a result of this instance that the modern incarnation of the papal conclave was instituted.
In modern history, the longest conclave was that of 1740, which lasted for 181 days and ended in the election of Benedict XIV. There were 51 cardinals who participated in the final ballot; four cardinals died during the proceedings.
The shorter conclaves began to take place from 1846, with the election of Blessed Pius IX. Fifty cardinals elected him pope in a conclave lasting three days, from June 14 to 16 that year.
In a separate interview, canon lawyer Msgr. Raul Go said the Canon Law commentary by Eduardo Molano explained that there is no specific requirement for one to become a candidate to the papacy.
Under Article 332, if the elected pope is not a bishop, he would have to undergo episcopal ordination.
There are two acts required: the act of legitimate election followed by the acceptance of the elected party and the episcopal ordination of the elected pope.
Msgr. Go said the valid election of a pope would require at least two-thirds of the total votes cast.
The document penned by Blessed John Paul II also stated that one ballot is held on the first day of the conclave. If no one is elected, two ballots shall be held in the morning and two in the afternoon on the following day.
After balloting is carried out for three days, voting is suspended for a maximum of one day in order to allow a pause for prayer, informal discussion among the voters, and a brief spiritual exhortation.
Voting is resumed and a series of seven ballots is cast; if no one has been elected pope, the election is again stopped. This seven-ballot process is allowed three cycles.
If there is still no pope chosen, the cardinal-electors would confer with the camerlengo or chamberlain on how to proceed. The voting can proceed by absolute majority of votes, with the top two names being voted upon.
Once a pope is elected and he gives his consent, the pope-elect would then be asked what name he wishes to be called. Then the master of papal liturgical celebrations records the new pope’s acceptance and chosen name. He then burns the ballots for the white “fumata” or white smoke signaling the election.
The new pope enters the “Room of Tears” to change into his white habit, recites a Gospel passage connected to the Petrine ministry, and each cardinal pledges his obedience.
The pope stops at the Pauline Chapel to pray, then steps out into the balcony at the center of St. Peter’s Basilica to give his first blessing to the world.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 13, 2013.