A WEEK TODAY 112 cardinals will begin the secret
conclave to elect the 264th
Vicar of Christ.
Although few of the cardinals will want the job, its importance cannot he underestimated. Despite the rough political and religious waters in which the Church has to sail these days, the papacy has grown in stature and credibility and the next reign could well take the Church into the 2Ist century.
Predictions as to the length of the forthcoming conclave vary, but since the cardinals. who are already in Rome for the funeral of Pope Paul, are not meeting until the very last day laid down in the new rules they will be able to spend the next two weeks discussing and lobbying for the various choices.
Over the centuries the average length of conclaves has been three months, though the last few have been short affairs. Pope John was elected on the 1 1 th ballot and Pope Pius XII on the third ballot.
After a great Mass in St Peter's they will gather in the Vatican on August 25 and the doors will he locked both from the inside and without. There will he about 200 people at the conclave apart from the cardinals — doctors, pharmacists, secretaries, cooks and hairdressers.
Apparently accommodation for the Cardinals is a real problem in that part of the Vatican. The old and the sick are given a choice, but the rest draw straws to choose the rest of the rooms, some of which are small and distinctly uncomfortable. Conditions will be far removed from those cardinals usually reside in.
The cardinals will meet four times a day in the Sistine Chapel to vote, Sundays in eluded. No discussion takes place in the Sistine Chapel, only the voting.
They have two votes in the morning then break for lunch, have a siesta, vote again twice in the evening and then have dinner. The discussions and lobbying takes place at meal times and in the rooms of the individual cardinals. There is no provision for a parliamentary style debate.
SEVENTY nine cardinals took 43 hours to elect Pope Paul.
Secrecy is the key to conclaves and no microphones, tape recorders, radios or any other equipment is allowed in. The rooms are checked for "bugging". Until the white smoke shows the watchers in St Peter's square that a Pope has been elected the conclave has no contact with the outside world.
The Pope can be chosen by acclamation; that is if a cardinal proposes a name and the whole college agrees unanimously. But normally the voting procedure is followed.
The new rules for the election of the Pope, which were drawn up by Pope Paul in 1975, lay down that the cardinals continue voting each day until one of the candidates receives a two-thirds plus one majority.
If all the cardinals agree, they can adopt other systems of choice. They can pick a "delegation" made up of between nine and 15 cardinals either to choose a Pope outright or offer a single name for the rest of the cardinals to vote on.
Or they can change the majority rule from two-thirds plus one to a straight majority plus one or even, if there are only two candidates, they can choose the one with the straight majority.
A large table is placed before the altar in the Sistine Chapel and individual desks placed around the walls, Each Cardinal takes his place and is issued with a voting form. Across the top is written the words El/go in Summum Pontificem (I elect as Supreme Pontiff) and underneath the Cardinal writes the name of his choice.
He then folds the paper horizontally, and takes it, holding it aloft, and approaches the table. He genuflects before the altar, kneels momentarily, and prays. He then rises and says out loud: "I call to witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge that my vote is given to the one whom before God I consider should be elected."
He then places the voting slip on the cover of the ballot box. tilts the cover and allows it to drop into the receptacle. He bows before the altar and returns to his place.
Before the voting takes place the cardinals choose nine of their number by lot, three to serve as tellers, three as inspectors and three to work with sick or aged cardinals.
When all the votes have been made the three tellers come forward. The first shakes the box to mix them, the third then counts them into another box, to make sure all have voted.
The three sit at the table in a row. The first opens each slip, notes the name on it, passes it to the second who also notes the name and passes it to the third, who reads the name out loud.
He then threads each slip onto a string and when he gets to the end he knots the string so as not to lose any of the slips. The three inspectors check the votes and then take the slips to the stove to burn them.
ANY male baptised a Catholic can be elected Pope.
If a Pope has been elected the papers are burned on their own, giving off white smoke for those anxiously waiting in the piazza below. If they have failed to elect a Pope the papers are burned in the notorious stove with a chemical which gives off black smoke.
If a man has been elected, Cardinal Pericle Felice, the senior Cardinal Deacon asks him if he accepts. If he does, he immediately becomes Bishop of Rome and tells the cardinals what name he wishes to be known by. The cardinals then pledge obedience to him.
After they have seen the white smoke the watchers in St Peter's Square will see Cardinal Pericle Felice come onto the main balcony of St Peter's and proclaim the name of the new Pope.
Next the Pope will emerge himself, already dressed in the white, papal cassock and give his blessing Urbi et Orbi. The coronation will follow in a few days.
Although one Pope, Celestine V. resigned, a Pope is normally elected for life. If he does resign another election must take place according to the normal rules. Who are the cardinals? Chosen by the Pope, they are his assistants and also head the main administration departments of the Vatican. They were originally the parish priests of the leading Roman churches and to this day each cardinal has a titular church in Rome. Cardinal flume's is San Silvestro.
ONLY 11 of the cardinals in this conclave were at the last.
The present system emerged in the 12th century when the cardinals obtained the exclusive, right to elect the Pope, and it has changed little since.
In 1918 it was laid down that all cardinals should be priests, and Pope John declared that all cardinals should be bishops. Pope Paul limited the number of active cardinals to 120 and decreed that when a cardinal reaches 80 he must resign his curial posts and not take part in the election of a new Pope.
Some cardinals reach their position through the Curia, others because of the status of their diocese, and others because the Pope wishes to confer a particular honour on a bishop.
At one time all the heads of the Vatican congregations were Italians, and Italians make up more than half the active cardinals living in Rome. More important the key department in the Vatican. the Council for Public Affairs, which sets the whole tone of the administration. is dominated by old Italian curial cardinals.
Of the other congregations only three of the 12 leading posts are held by Italians as a result of Pope Paul's attempts to internationalise the Curia. Cardinals from 57 different countries will be attending this conclave.
In other cases the title of cardinal goes with a particular See, such as Westminster or Armagh. When a man is appointed to that See he almost automatically becomes a cardinal. It is said that before he died, Pope Paul was preparing to make Archbishop 0 Fiaich of Armagh a cardinal.
Although too much has been made of this it is the first time that the 26 Italian cardinals hold less than one-third of the votes. The change in the make-up of the College of Cardinals is emphasised by the fact that eight out of the 16 too old to vote are Italians.
There is an assumption that the Italians will all vote for one of their own countrymen but there is no evidence to support this.
As for the rest, 23 come from West Europe, six from Eastern Europe, eight from the United States, three from Canada, 20 from Latin America, 10 from Asia, 12 from Africa and four from Australasia. Forty of them come from what are usually categorised as Third World countries.
Their average age is 66 and 55 of them are 66 or younger. Their youngest is Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines, at 49, and their oldest is Frantisek Tomasek the Archbishop of Prague, who is 79. Twenty-two are under 60; 39 between 61 and 70; and 54 between 71 and 80.
There will be little experience of how to conduct a conclave among the cardinals. Only 11 of them were present at the election of Pope Paul, and three of them — Cardinal Leger of Canada, Cardinal Sin, an Italian and the indomitable Stefan Wyszinsky of Poland — helped elect Pope John in 1958.
Twenty-five of them were made cardinals only in the last three years and some of them, like Cardinal Hume, came from singularly unpublic backgrounds. They will have had little chance to meet each other, so what the college has gained in breadth and international representation, it has lost in closeness and coherence.
What sort of man will they choose? Cardinal Hume has said that he doesn't know how the college will set about its task. Will they look at possible candidates first or draw up a "job description" and then see who fits it best?
Officially the Pope holds a number of titles: Bishop Of Rome, which means he has a diocese like any other bishop; Vicar of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd of the Flock — a task entrusted to St Peter by Christ.
The Pope is also Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, inheriting from the ancient Romans the title of Pontifex Maximus, the Supreme Bishop. He is successor to the chief of the Apostles and Primate of Italy and he is Patriach of the West, a title dating from the 6th century, which means that he has supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Western Europe.
A POPE is normally elected for life. If he resigns, a normal election takes place.
He also holds the titles of Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province and he is Sovereign of the State of Vatican City the world's smallest State with an area about the size of Hyde Park and a population of about 1,000. This is the only temporal power left to the Pope.
Any male baptised Catholic can be elected Pope, though if a layman is elected he is immediately ordained priest and bishop. This conclave is unlikely to look outside its own number, but there are two senior archbishops -Archbishop Agostino Casaroli. who is Secretary to the Congregation dealing with Communist countries, and Archbishop Bellastrero, the new Archbishop of Turin — who would certainly have been in the running had they been cardinals.
Whether the Cardinals look at the man or the job, the task is far wider than the titles suggest. Cardinal Hume said last week that they must choose a man of God, one who can preach the Gospel and be listened to.
This should go without saying, but because he will be facing a sceptical and apathetic world he must be transparently holy. He must have spiritual charisma in abundance and be able to communicate it through the modern media.
THIS is the first time that the Italian cardinals have held less than one-third of the votes.
The papacy, while losing none of its responsibility. has certainly lost much of its power in recent years. Although the office is prestigious this is increasingly becoming dependent on the man who holds it.
The main decision which the new man will have to make is whether to allow diversity or in sist on centralism. Will each bishops' conference be allowed to go its own way or will he insist on a Rome-dictated uniformity?
He will also decide on how he will treat the Synod of Bishops, whether to work with it as a primus inter pares or treat it as a helpful talking shop which he visits, as the Queen does Parliament, at its beginning and end.
Whichever path he chooses he must be immensely strong — strong enough to create security. to allow change or prevent it. In Pope Paul's last years the power of the Curia increased again. the pace of the heart of the Church slowed down and important decisions by-passed the papal desk, resulting in chaos and contradiction.
The new man will have to pick up the reins of government again and impose a new style. If the Cardinals pick a young man they must weigh his energy and youthfulness against the thought that he will he there for a long time. They may find a young man but feel that he should be Pope in a few years and appoint an old man to "keep the throne warm".
THE average age of Popes elected this century has been 66 — the same average age of cardinals.
The last time the cardinals did this they chose Pope John. The result was not what they expected. The average age of popes elected this century has been 66 — the same as the average age of the present cardinals. On average they have died at 81 and ruled for 14 years.
One convincing analysis put forward by Peter Hebblethwaite in The Sunday Times last week says that there are four schools of thought among the cardinals.
There are those who believe that Pope Paul got it right, that he rode the Church through a difficult time and what we need now is more of the same style. Led by the North Americans, they will put forward Cardinal Pignedoli or Cardinal Bench i as their candidate. The second school of thought feels that Pope Paul was too vacillating and allowed Rome's authority to slip away. They are the conservative group and will put forward Cardinal Felice or Cardinal Baggio to restore some power to the Vatican.
The third group are the Europeans, the practical, pastoral men of the Council who feel that Pope Paul was too timid and rigid. They want more cooperation between Rome and bishops' conferences and will put forward Cardinal Suenens for a short innings, or Cardinal Willebrands for a longer one.
Finally there is the group from the Southern Hemisphere who see many of the ecclestiastical concerns of the European Church to be irrelevant in their life and death struggles in Latin America and Africa.
They will put forward Cardinal Lorscheider, the German Brazilian, to start with, and will compromise with a man like the Italian Argentinian Cardinal Pironio or even the former Archbishop of Turin, the tough. radical Cardinal Pellegrino.
But these lobbies can only represent where the conclave will start from. Faced with such a diversity of demands the cardinals must surely realise that if the Church is going to stay together they must compromise.
It will be dangerous for any of these views to prevail. The cardinals must also have in front of their minds specific issues which the new Pope will have to grapple with. Church government and ecumenism must be the main two.
The new Pope is facing a potential schism with the Tridentimist movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, and on the ecumenical front is involved in more talks and discussions than ever before with other Christian denominations as well as nonChristian religions.
On the political front the new Pope faces the growing split in the world between the "haves" and the –have-nots" as well as the Communist-Capitalist divide between East and West. In Italy itself he faces the historic compromise between the Christian Democrats and the
In recent years, faced with a multiplicity of secular and sacred demands made on bishops, the Holy Spirit, no other source in the Vatican has yet been identified — has increasingly chosen men of piety, simplicity and wisdom.
Cardinal Hume is one example of this trend, Archbishop Romero of El Salvador is another, there are more. If that is the way the Spirit is blowing we may find the journalists scratching madly around but finding only surprise at the complete outsider of no experience who becomes Pope in succession to Paul VI.