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The period of transition between the end of one papacy and the beginning of another is referred to by two names. "Sede vacante," in the Church’s official Latin, is translated "vacant see," meaning that the see (or diocese) of Rome is without a bishop. In the 20th century this transition averaged just 17 days. It is also referred to as the Interregnum, a reference to the days when popes were also temporal monarchs who reigned over vast territories. This situation has almost always been created by the death of a pope, but it may also be created by resignation, as is the case with Pope Benedict XVI.  On these pages, you will find background information and stories about the interregnum

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Rain, cold, can't keep faithful, curious away from conclave smoke-watch

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A second day of rain and cold couldn't keep thousands of people from pouring into St. Peter's Square to keep their eyes on a tiny chimney high atop a tiled roof.

Because of the inclement weather, most people waited until about 30 minutes before the smoke was expected to billow from a set of stoves in the Sistine Chapel, where 115 cardinal electors had gathered for the first round of voting March 12 and again after the second and third ballots March 13.


More black smoke on morning of conclave's first full day

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More black smoke poured from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at 11:40 a.m. March 13, which seemed to indicate the 115 cardinal electors failed to elect a pope on their second and third ballots.


Quid est in nomine? Latin name is first clue to new pope's identity

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The first clue to the identity of the new pope will be the announcement of his first name -- in Latin, in the accusative case.

If he is not the one chosen, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the top-ranked cardinal-deacon, will say, in Latin, "I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope: His most Eminent and Reverend Lordship, Lord ..." followed by the Latin version of the chosen cardinal's first name.

If Cardinal Tauran says, "Lord Odilonem" everyone would know the new pope was Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo. They would not have to wait for Cardinal Tauran to announce the new pope's last name.

But if he says "Lord Angelum," it would not necessarily mean the new pope was the media-touted Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan; there are three other Italian cardinals also named Angelo.

If the cardinal says "Ioannem," things would be much more complicated. Fifteen cardinals' names begin Juan, Jean or Giovanni, the equivalent of John.

Five cardinals' first names are variations of Iosephum (Joseph), five are named Franciscum (Francis) and five have names beginning Antonium (Anthony).

Only two are named after the apostle Peter, Petrum, and three after the apostle Paul, Paulum.

The 115 cardinals who will enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave include four named Georgium or George and three who would be called Carolum, like Blessed John Paul II, the former Karol Wojtyla.

There are limits to translation possibilities: Lithuanian Cardinal Audrys Juozas Backis of Vilnius would be called Audrys and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai would be either Bachara or Becharam.

When the Vatican's Office of Latin Letters is called upon to write a letter in Latin to one of the cardinals, the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis," the book of official acts of the Holy See, is the go-to place for which version of their name to use. The volumes for 1909 through the end of 2012 are online on the Vatican website.

Apparently, though, it is not always that easy. Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Isaac Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, has been referred to both as Basilium Clementem and Isaac.

It also is possible that Cardinal Tauran will not use the accusative case when he announces the name. He could say, "Marcus" instead of "Marcum" if the cardinals choose Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has been prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Voting for new pope to begin March 12

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Servic

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal electors assembled in Rome will begin voting for the next pope March 12.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, announced the date for the start of the election, known as a conclave, in a message to reporters March 8.

The first session of voting inside the Sistine Chapel will begin in the afternoon, following a morning Mass "Pro eligendo Summo Pontifice" ("for the election of the supreme pontiff") in St. Peter's Basilica.

Rules governing papal elections state that a conclave must start between 15 and 20 days after the Holy See falls vacant; but shortly before his resignation Feb. 28, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree allowing cardinal to move up the start date if they choose.


Today's cardinal-electors slightly older than group in 2005 conclave

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The group of cardinals preparing to enter a conclave to elect a new pope is slightly older -- by four months -- than the group that elected 78-year-old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005.

Pope Benedict XVI, now 85, said his age and diminishing energy prompted him to resign for the good of the church, so some cardinals and many commentators expect attention to turn to younger members of the College of Cardinals.

Only cardinals under the age of 80 when the papacy becomes vacant can enter the conclave in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope. The cardinal-electors do not have to choose one of their own, but they usually do.

As of Feb. 28, the average age of the 117 eligible cardinal-electors was 71 years, 11 months. In 2005, there also were 117 cardinal-electors (although two did not participate because of illness) and their average age was 71 years, seven months.

The cardinals who elected 58-year-old Cardinal Karol Wojtyla -- Blessed John Paul II -- in 1978 had an average age of 67.

Of the cardinals eligible to elect a successor to Pope Benedict -- those under 80 Feb. 28 -- only five were in their 50s. Thirty-eight cardinals were in their 60s; 74 were in their 70s.

The oldest member of the conclave was expected to be Cardinal Walter Kasper. He was 79 when the Holy See became vacant Feb. 28, but was turning 80 March 5.

The youngest cardinal in the conclave was expected to be 53-year-old Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Three other leaders of Eastern Catholic churches also were eligible to join the conclave.

Almost 43 percent of the cardinal-electors were created cardinals by Blessed John Paul and participated in the election of Pope Benedict almost eight years ago. The remaining 57 percent of the voters were named by Pope Benedict.

In the aftermath of the "VatiLeaks" scandal and amid loud cries for a reform of the Roman Curia, 35 percent of the cardinal-electors either work in the curia or have retired from posts at the Vatican.

Only 24 percent of the cardinals in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict were curia members or retirees.

Most of the cardinal-electors are heads of archdioceses around the world.

The 117 come from 50 countries -- fairly close to the 53 countries represented in the 2005 conclave.

The European dominance in the College of Cardinals is slightly stronger than it was eight years ago. Today, 52 percent of the cardinal-electors are European; in the last conclave, 49.5 percent were European.

There are 19 Latin American cardinal-electors, about 16 percent of the total; 14 from the U.S. and Canada, or about 12 percent; and 11 each from Africa and Asia, representing about 9 percent for each continent. Australia and the South Pacific -- "Oceania" in Vatican parlance -- have only one elector, Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.

In the country-by-country breakdown, Italy is significantly stronger than it was eight years ago. Today the country has 28 voting-age cardinals, eight more than in 2005 and two more than in 1978.

Italians now represent almost 24 percent of the conclave voters, compared to 23 percent in 1978; in the conclaves of 1963 and 1958, the Italians made up more than 30 percent of the total number of voters.

The United States has 11 voters, as it did eight years ago; Germany has six; Spain, Brazil and India each have five. France and Poland each have four electors and Mexico and Canada each have three.

Among the voting-age cardinals, there are 19 members of religious orders, or 16 percent of the total, and they include four Salesians, three Franciscans and two Jesuits.

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


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