These few weeks have been incredible ones for the Church, as we witnessed the resignation of the pope and look ahead to the election of his successor. This month, in our Year of Faith website, we will be focusing on the papal conclave and the election of the new pontiff. It is an extraordinary time of reflection and discussion about the direction of the Church. Join in prayer, review some of the information below and the resources in the menu on the left, and become a part of this historical and spiritual event. Remembering that we are still in the Year of Faith carrying forward the Spirit of Vatican II—how will you help throw open the windows of the Church and let the fresh air in?
The papal conclave begins on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, when the 115 cardinal electors assemble in the Sistine Chapel, to begin the voting process. The Sistine Chapel is tightly secured, from both electronic and physical eavesdropping and the cardinals swear an oath of secrecy and are not permitted access to outside news. Votes are taken daily until a pope is elected. A two thirds vote is required to elect the new pope.
White Smoke/Black Smoke
If you know nothing else about electing a pope, you surely know about the famous white smoke/black smoke tradition! Black smoke (“fumata negra”) signals a pope has not been elected; white smoke (“fumata bianca”) indicates a pope has been elected. While black smoke used to be affected by sealing wax on the ballots as well as adding wet straw to the ballots, today modern science helps avoid any ambiguity by contributing chemicals to ensure the smoke is black. And white smoke is accompanied by the ringing of the bells of St. Peter’s, likewise to avoid any doubts.
What do you think makes someone “papabile”?
Yes, your reflection matters! A made up word, “papabile” translates roughly as “pope-able” and refers to anyone who is considered a good potential for election to the papacy. While it’s true that we will not get to vote, it is an important time to reflect on the leadership of the Church. We began this Year of Faith steeped in the words and Spirit of Vatican II, rich with its call to all of us to take up our role in shaping and creating the living Church. What do YOU think we need in a pope? How does the role of the pope shape, form, affect your faith life? Does it? Why or why not?
In this extraordinary time in the Church, we are connected with our sisters and brothers around the world at all levels and in all places, drawn together as a global community in faith, in Christ. Together we call on and are guided by the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and the hearts of the cardinal electors to the will of God and the work of the Spirit. Click here
for a prayer or pray using words of your own. Or you can join the growing online movement and “adopt a cardinal” at adoptacardinal.org. Yes, it’s Vatican approved!
From “Sede vacante” to “Habemus papam!”
That is, from “empty seat”—literally meaning the seat of Lateran Cathedral, referring to the absence of the bishop of Rome (i.e., the pope)—to “We have a pope!”—the announcement we will hear when the election is successful. It is really a gift to be in this place and time, suspended in reflection on where we have been and where we think we need to go. It is the point at which we let go of one era and begin another. Imagine what it would be like if we embraced it with hope and creativity!
Beware the Prophets of Doom
The eyes of the world are on the Church now more than ever. And it brings the cynics and the naysayers, the pundits and the predictors (the “prophets of doom” as Blessed John XXIII once called them) out of the woodwork. But this is the faith and tradition of our church. We don’t have to love everything, and we may challenge or disagree sometimes—that’s what conversion and growth are about. Don’t despair. Let that little spark of the Spirit stay strong in you and, in the words of St. Ignatius, “Go, set the world on fire!”