Sede Vacante: The Cardinals take over

With the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the time of the Sede Vacante starts next Thursday, February 28, at 8:00 pm. This is how the period is called, in which the office of the Pope is not occupied.

Typically, this period extends from the death of the head of church until his successor is elected. The term comes from Latin and literally means “empty chair”. During the papal transition, the College of Cardinals, eventually all 209 currently living Cardinals, are in charge of the church. Their powers are limited to tasks and decisions that can not be postponed. Laws issued by the Pope cannot be corrected or modified during this period.

Administrated by Cardinal Chamberlain

The interim government of the Church is taken over by the Cardinal Chamberlain (Camerlengo). The current Camerlengo is Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Together with three Cardinal assistants, that are chosen by lot and replaced every three days, he forms a so-called special congregation, wich decides, among other things, when the entire College of Cardinals shall meet for the first General Congregation, to prepare the Pope election.

The General Congregation meets daily at the Apostolic Palace, and is headed by the Dean of Cardinals Angelo Sodano. The College of Cardinals prepares in particular the election of the new Pope. The Pope election traditionally takes place in the Sistine Chapel under strictest security and confidentiality measures. However, during their stay in Rome, the Cardinals live  Рalso during the time of the conclave Рreasonably comfortable in the Vatican Guest House Santa Marta.

All Cardinals participating in the General Congregation, must swear an oath on the Gospel, to respect the rules and to absolute secrecy. The same applies to participants who are older than 80 years and may therefore not participate in the election of the new Pope. The cardinals swear, among other things, that they “will keep everything secret, which relates in any way to the election of the Pope.

The faithful are encouraged to pray

Continue reading

Open questions after “Vatileaks” and Pope’s resignation

Vatican insiders wonder whether the scandal surrounding the unfaithful butler Paolo Gabriele has moved Benedict XVI. to resign. Many questions remain unanswered after the “Vatileaks” affair.

According to journalists and Pope biographer Peter Seewald, the “Vatileaks” affair was not the reason for Benedict XVI’s resignation. The betrayal of his long-time servant Paolo Gabriele had neither thrown the Pope off track, nor tired of office, Seewald reported after a conversation with Benedict XVI. at the summer residence in Castel Gandolfo last August. BBut the case of the stolen papal documents that have partly publicly accessible, is one of the most spectacular scandals in the entire history of the Vatican.

Rumours about reasons for Pope resignation

So far, there has never been faced a that close collaborator of the Pope with such serious allegations. Therefore it cannot be ruled out, that the bitterness in consequence of the scandal, as well as the factional infighting among the Cardinals in the Curia have encouraged the Pope in his decision to resign. On Thursday the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” wrote, that some Cardinals might be susceptible to blackmail, referring to a secret report regarding the “Vatileaks” affair, that three Cardinals had presented to the Pope on December 17 2012.

The report of the three-member Cardinal Commission about the scandal continues to be officially kept secret. Therefore it is still not known through which of the many duplicate letters and reports the Pope might have been susceptible to blackmail. Further there are circulating speculations, that the Italian intelligence service had obtained the material.

Open questions

After the imposition of a mild 18-month prison sentence against Gabriele and his pardon before Christmas, there remain many unanswered  questions about possible accomplices and the motives that may have led the 46-year-olds to the systematic theft of confidential documents of the Pope.

Continue reading