Some things just need to be said...

Friday, April 01, 2005

How a new Pope is chosen

Update April 2, 2005

The Pope has died.


What will happen when Pope John Paul II dies?

Why am I interested in this? The Pope and the Roman Catholic Church make up one of the world's most powerful institutions. As an outside observer it has all the appeal of a political party choosing a new leader. Lots of speculation, lots of predictions and intrigue. The intrigue here goes even further given the secrecy surrounding the decision being made by the cardinal electors.

Some of the rules are laid out below for electing the new pope, though by no means is this complete ...

It is the "reigning" Pope that decides how a new Pope will be elected. Pope John Paul II has laid out in detail what is to happen when he dies.

The procedure of election is laid out in considerable detail and hopes to avoid Cardinals lobbying each other for either personal or other benefit in exchange for voting for ones chosen candidate.

In simple terms here is what happens;

Everyone is sworn to secrecy, the room is swept for audio and video devices and when declared clean the beginning of the vote.

The cardinals electors hand write their choice for pope a ballot. The ballot is then placed in an urn on an alter.

When everyone has voted the ballots are withdrawn and counted. If there are 100 cardinal electors voting there must be 100 ballots. If there is not then the whole process begins again.

If all present have voted then each ballot is read aloud and then written on a board.

To be the next Pope you need 2/3 of the votes. The Cardinal electors go at this for three days and if no one person has received 2/3's they take a break for up to a day.

They return for another seven ballots and if still unable to elect someone with 2/3's vote a meeting is held to decide how to proceed. The meeting decision is determined by a simple majority.

For more on this procedure the Ottawa Citizen has this. You can also try Universi Dominici Gregis. I have tried it a few times but have not been able to log in.

I note that ...

The Pope has stated that no Cardinal having reached the age of 80 before his death will take part in the vote. The reasoning offered is that he did not want to burden them with such a heavy responsibility. I suspect this measure also prevents some cardinals anointed by the previous Pope from voting.

Pope John Paul II is seen as conservative. Many of the Cardinals that will vote for a new Pope were appointed by John Paul II and share his conservative views. Chances that the new Pope will look at expanding the role of women in the Church and revisit homosexuality as a sin are extremely slim.

There is also a good chance the new Pope will come from Africa, Latin America or Asia. The Church is growing in these areas faster than anywhere else. It all comes down to politcs really. As much as many will say it isn't they are fooling themselves. The RC Church has many factions widely devided falling into two larger camps, liberals and conservatives. As I stated above the Pope has stacked the deck in favour of conservatives.

The Vatican - (may take awhile to load)
CBC: Backgrounder on Pope John Paul II
BBC: Roman Catholics around the world
Washington Times: Death of pope sets protocol in motion

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