Saturday, March 2, 2013

Papal resignation and conclave - 7

Some sede vacante matters


You may be seeing a lot of a certain symbol or coat of arms in the next couple of weeks. Picture number one above is the official coat of arms of the sede vacante, but it also serves as a symbol of the papacy in general. It features the crossed keys, one gold to symbolize the spiritual power of the pope, the other silver to signify his temporal power (within Vatican City), and what looks like a small umbrella.


The little umbrella or canopy which you see with the keys represents an item which was used in centuries past to provide shade for a pope walking in an outdoor procession. When pictured in color it will be with red and gold stripes. In time, particularly from the early sixteenth century, it began to be used as one of the symbols of the papacy, like the crossed keys and the tiara (papal crown). The umbrella has various names: umbraculum (in Latin), gonfalone or padiglione (in Italian). When the pope elevates a church to the status of basilica, he bestows on it an umbraculum which is usually displayed in the vicinity of the main altar of the basilica. The umbrella is ordinarily in a closed position, but whenever the pope is present in the basilica the umbrella is opened. It is also represented in the background of the basilica's coat of arms. (For my friends in the New Orleans area, this umbrella is NOT used for second-lining in Mardi Gras parades)!


During the period of the sede vacante this symbol will display the coat of arms of the Camerlengo, the cardinal who governs the church until the new pope is elected. The second photo above shows the coat of arms of the sede vacante together with that of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the current Camerlengo. The cardinal's coat of arms will be removed from the symbol after the election.


One of the duties of the Camerlengo is to seal the apartment of the pope after his death or resignation (we have to get accustomed to saying "resignation" now). This was done last Thursday immediately after the resignation of Benedict XVI became effective. The seal which is used features the coat of arms of the sede vacante. It was placed by the Camerlengo on the private elevator which leads directly into the papal apartment, as well as on the door leading into the apartment. The two seals will only be removed after the election of the next pope . . . so he can get into his house!


The General Congregations


These gatherings of the cardinal electors will begin on Monday, under the direction of the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano. There will be two meetings a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon until the start of the conclave. We don't know yet when the conclave will start. The cardinals themselves will decide the date during one of their General Congregations (probably not the first one, however). The purpose of these meetings is to give the cardinals a chance to know one another better and to evaluate one another. Various issues facing the Church will be discussed and different cardinals will be expressing their opinions, not only on the issues, but on the qualities each one thinks the new pope should have. You can bet they will be taking notes, especially when the papabili (likely candidates) are speaking.


As regards the starting date of the conclave, the cardinals seem to be divided. Some are of the opinion that the conclave should begin as early as possible, perhaps even March 8. Others are pushing for a later date (March 11 or later) in order to have more time to study the various  candidates before going into the conclave. An earlier beginning could mean a lengthier conclave since some conclave time would be used to further evaluate. A later beginning could mean a shorter conclave since most of the evaluation would have been done during the General Congreations.


Salary bonus


Here is a curious item which I only learned about recently. The period of the sede vacante will cause quite a bit of overtime work for most employees in the Vatican. As a result there has long existed the custom of paying the workers double their salary during this period, a kind of overtime pay. When John Paul II died and Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, instead of a doubled salary, each worker was given a one-time bonus of 1,000 euros. If you multiply this by the approximately 4,000 workers involved today, it comes to four million euros! Some people are claiming that this is too extravagant during a time of financial crisis like the one we are now experiencing.


This custom was a real bonanza for the workers in 1978 when there were two papal deaths and conclaves within a little over one month. This was when Paul VI died and John Paul I was elected, who then died 33 days later. Everybody received two paychecks with double the salary! Now some Vatican officials are saying that this "papal death bonus" (my term, not the Vatican's!) is not valid for the resignation of a pope, but only for his death. And furthermore, should it be double pay or a one-time bonus? Just one more little sticky problem for the experts to solve during these unprecedented times!


Post a Comment