The Conclave; Election of a New Pontiff
By Michael K. Jones

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will step down February 27th, after 8 years as Pope Benedict. Upon departure of an elected pope, Catholic cardinals will gather to begin the task of electing the new Pontiff of the Catholic Church. This process is known as "The Conclave."

About The Conclave

It is said the severest of punishments await anyone who breaks the sacred oath of secrecy during the ritual-filled process of electing a new pope during a Vatican conclave. Pope John Paul set out the penalties in the 1996 document Shepherd of the Lord's Whole Flock giving the cardinals who will choose his successor a set of detailed guidelines to ensure the centuries-old process of electing a pope is safe in an age of media leaks and mobile phones. In it, he called for a clean sweep by "trustworthy" technicians of the Sistine Chapel and adjoining rooms to prevent bugs and other audio-visual equipment from being installed. He banned telephones. But with 3,500 accredited journalists roaming Vatican City and a world desperate to learn of the cardinals' deliberations, many wondered if news of a new pope will get out before the white smoke leaves the Sistine Chapel's chimney.

During the process of the conclave after John Paul's passing, guidelines called for a near-monastic existence for 117 cardinals who voted in the conclave: no newspapers, magazines, radio or TV. For the duration of the vote, they can't communicate with anyone - in person, by phone or letter - who hasn't been vetted by the Vatican and taken an oath of secrecy. "Should any infraction whatsoever of this norm occur and be discovered, those responsible should know that they will be subject to grave penalties according to the judgment of the future pope".

Excommunication is one option, particularly for the handful of people who aren't cardinals who will have access to the red-hatted "princes of the church." They include regular priests who hear confessions, two doctors on call in case of emergency and staff who will serve meals and clean up after the cardinals. Despite such measures taken to ensure secrecy, Pope John Paul changed the rules to allow the cardinals greater freedom while the conclave is under way. Previously, cardinals were literally locked up "with a key," inside the Apostolic Palace, its windows sealed, until they found a new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. 

But John Paul, a veteran of two conclaves, decided to let the cardinals out, declaring that all of Vatican City was open to them. The reasons for the changes are practical: There was no running water in the makeshift rooms the cardinals used in the Apostolic Palace, and there was only one bathroom for every five or six electors. The new rooms in Sanctae Marthae, he said, were "discrete and simple but more comfortable", said Archbishop Marini.

John Paul made clear, though, that the norms for secrecy must remain: "Provision shall be made to ensure that no one approaches the cardinal electors while they are being transported from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Apostolic Vatican Palace," the document says. That means no personal secretaries or communications directors who are juggling the cardinals' many media appearances can pull their bosses aside once the conclave begins.

Shrouded in silence and secrecy, when the gathering cardinals have decided the next elected Pontiff, the world will know the decision has been made when white smoke leaves the Sistine Chapel's chimney.

Possible Related News

Much speculation was about as many gossiped about the passing of Pope John Paul and this current Conclave. Many believe the next Pope after John Paul would be the last in the Catholic Church as we know it's foundation today. Others believe there are troubled times ahead for the world entire, even as given during the apparitions of Garabandal, Spain. Despite possible predictions, the local bishop to Garabandal declared Garabandal was not supernatural in nature. Note: Last claimed Garabandal apparition place November 13, 1965. 

We should not put any stock into rumor or speculation but certainly there is nothing wrong with keeping an opened eye and mind as we watch events unfold. Closely watching current events gives good indication of future possibilities in the break down of an unraveling secular world . For many years now the Church itself has been divided between "traditionalist" who hold true to deeply rooted ancestral doctrine and "modernists," who favor the breaking of tradition for new concepts and ideas.

It may well be best that we all bow a knee and offer much prayer for the coming election process of the new Pontiff.


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