AFTER the Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation on February 28, the Roman Catholic Church may have a new leader before the beginning of Holy Week (on March 24, Palm Sunday).
St. Peter, the first leader of the Catholic Church, was believed by Catholics to be selected by Jesus when He told him: “Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.”
The next successor of St. Peter after Pope Benedict XVI (as with other modern successors before him) would be elected by cardinals who are eligible to vote.
As TIME Magazine reported, 115 cardinals will be locked inside the Sistine Chapel and would have to be subjected to both new and old rules.
TIME outlined the solemn process of electing the next Pope:
Oaths and appointments
The Cardinals swear an oath of secrecy, promising to avoid contact with the outside world until a Pope is chosen. Three cardinals are picked to count votes, three to check the counts, and three to assist ailing electors in casting ballots.
Procession to the altar
To vote, each elector (disguising his handwriting) puts a name on a paper ballot, folds it twice, and carries it to the altar. There, he swears an oath to Christ, places the ballot on a plate, and tips the plate so the ballot falls into a large chalice.
Count and recount
The three “vote counters” (known as scrutineers) begin their task. The first “vote counter” shakes the chalice to mix the ballots; the second “vote counter” counts the ballots to make sure all cardinals present have voted. The third reads aloud the name on each ballot, recording it on paper.
Search for agreement
Only one round of voting is allowed on the first day. Voting, however, continues thereafter up to four times a day, until a candidate gets two-thirds (77) of the votes.
Can a Cardinal vote for himself? There is actually no rule against this, except the sin of pride, which forbids a Cardinal to cast a ballot for himself.
The new Pope takes a name
When a candidates receives the 77 votes necessary to win, the dean of the College of cardinals asks whether he accepts the job. The moment the candidate gives his consent, he becomes the Pope. He then declares his papal name and is presented to the world.
‘Holy Smoke:’ Signaling the world
TIME Magazine further describes how news on the election of the new Pope is spread to the world. fter each round of voting, the cardinals’ ballots are burned in the fireplace of the Sistine Chapel. This is the way by which the world is informed about the process of the voting proceedings.
A black smoke tells the public that there is still no choice, and that the voting continues. this black smoke color comes from straw or chemicals.
What the world really waits for is the “white smoke.” This heralds the news: “We have a new Pope”. Then the bells ring to confirm.
Who will be the next Pope?
Sources say the Cardinals can elect any Catholic and unmarried man. However, a Cardinal has always been voted as Peter’s successor in modern times.
There have been talks that the next Pope should come from Africa, Asia or South America. Among those rumored to be in the short list of candidates, is Manila Archbishop and Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
But it is also important to look at the background of the Cardinals who are actually voting for the next Pope.
The 115 voting cardinals come from 48 countries. 14 are from North America, 19 are from Latin America, 60 are from Europe, 11 are from Africa, 10 are from Asia, and 1 is from Australia.
Of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, 12.57 percent are from Africa, 48.75 percent are from America (North, Central, South, Caribbean), 11.24 percent come from Asia, 26.37 percent are from Europe, 0.27 percent come from the Middle East, while 0.72 percent are from Oceania (tropical Pacific Islands).
Will these factors come into play in the Cardinals’ election of the next Pope in the conclave?
Who should be the next Pope? New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan (also rumored to be in the shortlist of candidates for next Pope) told Christian Amanpour on CNN that he should be “a man who reminds you of Jesus. Now every Christian is supposed to do that, OK, but in a particularly radiant and personal way, the pope is supposed to remind us of Jesus. We call him the vicar of Christ.”
Cardinal Dolan also said Roman Catholics “need somebody savvy about the church universal, who kind of is aware and conscious of the diverse needs of the Catholic family”.
He added that the next Pope will also have to be somebody who can get by in at least English, Italian and preferably some other languages, too. He also ought to have “some governing capacity, some managerial skills.”
When asked if the next Pope should be a conservative traditionalist or a progressive leader, Cardinal Dolan answered: “For a pope, the mission statement is to conserve, in the best sense of the word. His job description is to — is to conserve, to preserve the patrimony of the church, I mean the spiritual patrimony of the church, the timeless teaching as passed on to us from Jesus to his apostles through 2,000 years of the church.”
“Now, that doesn’t mean that he might not change the way it’s presented. But to tamper with the immutable teachings of the church, he wouldn’t see that as his role. He would see it as his sacred responsibility to preserve that,” Cardinal Dolan explained.
* * *
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos