Following the controversial announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the first to do it since the Middle Ages, it feels a Lent of concern to the Catholic Church. Now the analysis focuses on the dynamics of the conclave to elect his successor.
The liturgical celebration of Ash Wednesday, of today, just two days after the surprise announcement, has a special weight for the Catholic community.
The 118 cardinals from around the world, will be isolated in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican to elect a successor among them. North America has 14 cardinals, while Latin America has 19, Europe has 62, Africa and Asia have 11 both, and Oceania has one candidate.
Choosing a Pope
The Catholic cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten their task.
Then the Sistine Chapel is closed with a padlock, which has been thoroughly revised to avoid any recording device.
The Cardinals come to swear an oath in which all promise to follow the rules of John Paul II, and to keep secret everything that is decided in the conclave. The current rules allow cardinals to discuss election rules, but not change them. It also establishes in advance who will count the votes. After the first ballot, a preliminary round takes place in the afternoon of the first day of the election. Following this there is the discussion and another vote, where each cardinal writes a name on the ballot and doubles, swears he gives his vote for the man he wants to be the new Pope, then puts it on a round plate and place it at the altar.
In case there’s no election after three days the votes are suspended for one day the debate it, if there are seven unsuccessful ballots only half of the votes are needed plus one to win. When there is a winner and the ballots are burned, white smoke indicates to viewers that there is already a result.
The elected Pope is asked if he accepts the appointment, after saying ‘I Do‘ in Latin becomes such. The new pope chooses his name and is dressed in white papal cassock. The cardinal designated overlooks St. Peter’s Square and announces: “Habemus papa” (We have a Pope).