Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Papal resignation and conclave - 4

Papal resignation and conclave – 4


Today's photo:


A scene from the papal conclave of 2005 in the spectacular setting of the Sistine Chapel.


This might be a good time to say a few words about the conclave since news out of Vatican City is scarce this week because the spiritual exercises are being conducted for the pope and the Roman Curia in the apostolic palace where the papal apartment is. It is interesting to note that this "high level retreat" – I think it's safe to call it such – is being conducted for the participants by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, one of the Curia cardinals.  But Ravasi is also one of the top papabili (likely candidates), at least among the Italian cardinals, and many experts think that the cardinal electors   will indeed return to an Italian pope after 34 years of  non-Italian  bishops of Rome. The fact that Ravasi is preaching the exercises to many of his fellow cardinal electors gives him a high profile position which, depending on his performance, could either help or hinder his status as a papabile. In any case, Ravasi is a name to keep in mind.


But who are the cardinal electors, and how many are there? Every cardinal who has not reached the age of 80 by the start of the sede vacante (Feb. 28 in this case) is eligible to participate and to vote. Currently there are 118 cardinals under 80, but one of them, the archbishop emeritus of Kiev, Lubomyr Husar, will celebrate his 80th birthday on Feb. 26 and so will not be allowed to enter the conclave. That leaves 117 electors (there were 115 in 2005 when Benedict XVI was chosen). It takes a two-thirds majority to elect the pope, hence 78 out of the 117 votes. After 34 unsuccessful ballots, a runoff election will be held between the two top vote getters on the previous ballot. Even here, however, it will take a two-thirds majority to elect. This may be a somewhat long conclave, but it is highly unlikely that it would reach 34 ballots. But . . . one never knows!


Much is being written and spoken about the American cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, even here in Rome. Many are saying that because of his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse cases involving priests of his archdiocese he should not be allowed to participate in the election of a new pope. The leading Italian Catholic periodical, Famiglia Cristiana, is conducting an informal and unofficial poll of its readers asking them to vote "Yes" or "No" on Mahony's participation in the conclave. The majority of the votes thus far are for No. But what do the rules say about excluding an eligible cardinal from the conclave? The "rule book", so to speak, is the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1995. At one point the document states: No Cardinal elector can be excluded from active or passive voice in the election of the Supreme Pontiff, for any reason or pretext . . . Based on this very strong statement, it would seem that the only way for Mahony to be excluded would be by his own choice not to participate. Those of you in the U.S. will certainly know more about this situation than I do in Rome. Of course we'll have more to say about the cardinals and the conclave later.


The next public appearance of Benedict XVI will be this Sunday, Feb. 24, at the noon Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to fill the square to see and hear the pope on this, his second to last public appearance. His final appearance will be three days later on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at his last weekly public audience which will take place in St. Peter's Square. The following day, Thursday, Feb. 28, is Benedict's last day as pope. The sede vacante (vacant see) begins at 8:00 p.m. that evening. More about that in upcoming posts.


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