After 3 votes, black smoke-A A +A
Thursday, March 14, 2013
AFTER three rounds of voting, the cardinals have yet to choose a new pope, while millions of eyes focus on a makeshift chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
While waiting for news from Rome, the Archdiocese of Cebu is in the thick of preparations for the May 13 elections and a voter education campaign.
Thick black smoke flowed from the world’s most watched chimney in Rome, prompting sighs of disappointment from the thousands of people gathered in chilly St. Peter’s Square.
“I’m not happy to see black smoke. We all want white,” said Rev. ThankGod Okoroafor, a Nigerian priest studying theology at Holy Cross University in Rome. “But maybe it means that the cardinals need to take time, not to make a mistake in the choice.”
More than half a world away, Archbishop Palma called on the people to continue to pray that the 115 cardinal-electors be guided by the Holy Spirit.
He focused on the church’s preparations for the May 13 elections and took a firm stand on keeping the local church non-partisan.
He also spoke of implementing a standardized allowance scheme for all priests, adding that “may there be no priest who lacks the essentials.”
At the Chrism Mass yesterday, the archbishop noted that it is the first time during the Lenten season that the church has no pope. (At least, there was none as of midnight, when this paper was put to bed.
“Christ is in the boat, contrary to many speculations of people in the world,” he added, explaining that the Church functions remain normal despite the lack of a pope.
It took four ballots to elect Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2005. But Vatican observers say the conclave could last longer this time, as the cardinals search for someone who’s both a manager that can clean up the Vatican and an inspiring figure who can recruit more members.
“We have not had a conclave over five days since 1831,” noted the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of “Inside the Vatican.”
“So if they are in there over five days, we know they are in trouble; they are having a hard time forming consensus around a particular person,” he told the Associated Press.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, however, noted that only one pope in the past century, Pope Pius XII, was elected on the third ballot, and that was on the eve of World War II.
“We don’t have any reason to talk about divisions ... nor conflicts,” Lombardi said. He said it simply takes time to reach consensus — two-thirds of the 115 votes, or 77 votes — on who the new pope should be.
Lombardi said it was a “good hypothesis” that the pope — whoever he is — would be installed next Tuesday, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church. The installation Mass is attended by heads of state from around the world, requiring at least a few days’ notice.
The cardinals spent the night sequestered in the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, on the edge of the Vatican gardens. They have no access to television, newspapers, cell phones or computers, and the hotel staff has taken an oath of secrecy to not reveal
anything they see or hear.
The actual vote takes place in far more evocative surroundings: the Sistine Chapel frescoed by Michelangelo in the 16th century with scenes of “Creation” and “The Last Judgment.”
In Cebu yesterday, Palma made specific directives as archbishop of the largest diocese in the country and issued strong declarations yesterday morning in front of Cebu-based diocesan and religious priests at their monthly recollection.
The Archdiocese of Cebu church hierarchy will remain non-partisan during the May elections, so there will be no endorsements of political candidates.
The three initiatives are being actively campaigned for and implemented by three church-based lay groups, namely, the pro-life advocates; Dilaab Foundation Inc., which promotes discernment for voters; and election watchdog Cebu-Citizens Involvement and Maturation in People’s Empowerment and Liberation Foundation Inc. (C-CIMPEL).
Archbishop Palma shared during the clergy recollection that during a recent visit to the Bacolod diocese, he was asked if Cebu would replicate their program of identifying candidates that Catholics should or should not vote for, based largely on how they voted on the Reproductive Health Law.
“As a bishop, I don’t buy that,” he said.
“The bishop is autonomous and now that we have no pope, we are more autonomous,” he added.
‘Don’t be divisive’
Palma explained that focusing a campaign on the Reproductive Health issue alone is limiting, because there are other issues that have to be raised.
“When people come up with names, these names are not in convents, parish bulletins, church grounds. (But) this would give an impression of a partisan stand. In the local scene, it (coming up with a list) would be divisive,” he said.
As to pastoral discernment or asking priests to guide the voters on whom to choose in the elections, Palma said he approves of the program but within limits.
“We have to assign or request priests to be their (voters’) companions and guides. It can be easily misunderstood that the initiative is coming from priests (when it does not),” he said.
The priests who choose or are chosen to join the program can only participate until April 2; after that, only lay people should be their guide.
Palma called for support of C-CIMPEL and the Manila-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. C-CIMPEL conducts voter education sessions and monitors election activities, including a parallel count on Election Day itself.
“They can perform a service and are truly non-partisan, they help manifest the will of the people. They also (work) through voter education and good governance, submitting the will of the people through faithful counting of ballots,” the archbishop added.
“We want to count the votes fairly, we want to count pro-life votes. But we still need to poll-watch,” said C-CIMPEL Director Marilu Chiongbian.
At the Chrism Mass, about 380 diocesan and religious priests renewed their vows before Archbishop Palma. The holy oil and chrism used to administer the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, holy orders for priests and anointing of the sick was blessed and distributed to all Cebu parishes.(With an Associated Press report)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 14, 2013.