Precinct 333

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Conclave Schedule

As I type, we are less that 8 hours away from the beginning of the Mass for the Election of a Supreme Pontiff, which begins the Conclave for the election of a successor to Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal Electors and their staff have already taken up residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they will live until they have completed their task.

The schedule for the Conclave will be as follows. All times are local time in Rome, which is GMT+2.

At 4.30 p.m. on Monday, the procession of cardinal electors will leave the Hall of Blessings for the Sistine Chapel. This ritual will be transmitted live on television.

Once in the Sistine Chapel, all the cardinal electors will swear the oath. The cardinal dean will read the formula of the oath, after which each cardinal, stating his name and placing his hand on the Gospel, will pronounce the words: 'I promise, pledge and swear.' Over these days, there has been frequent talk of the bond of secrecy concerning the election of the Pope. However, I would like to reiterate that this is just part of the oath. First of all, an oath is made to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis; then another oath is made that - and I quote - 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church.’

After the oath, the master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff pronounces the 'extra omnes,' and all those who do not participate in the conclave leave the Sistine Chapel. Only the master of Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik remain for the meditation, once that has finished they too leave the Sistine Chapel.

During the conclave, the cardinals will have the following timetable:

At 7.30 a.m., the celebration or concelebration of Mass will take place in the Domus Sanctae

Marthae. By 9 a.m., they will be in the Sistine Chapel. There they will recite the Lauds of the Liturgy of the Hours and, immediately afterwards, voting will take place according to the prescribed ritual (two votes in the morning, and two votes in the afternoon). In the afternoon, voting will begin at 4 p.m. At the end of the second vote will be Vespers.

After the two votes of the morning and the two of the afternoon respectively, the ballots and any notes the cardinals have made will be burnt in a stove located inside the Sistine Chapel.

Purely as an indication then, the smoke signals could appear at around 12 noon and at about 7 p.m. (unless the new Pope is elected either in the first vote of the morning or the first vote of the afternoon, in which case the smoke signal will be earlier). In any case it is expected that, along with the white smoke, the bells of St Peter will sound to mark a successful election.

According to Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, after three days without the selection of a new pope there will be a day taken for prayer and reflection. The voting will resume for seven ballots, then break for another such period if no new pope has been elected. This pattern will continue until a new pope is chosen. After the 33rd or 34th ballot, the Cardinal Electors may choose to reduce the margin from the initial 2/3 vote to a simple majority, or may limit themselves to only the top two candidates (or, I presume, both).

The identity and regnal name of the new pontiff will not be announced to anyone outside of the Conclave until the new pope is brought out to the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. There will be no special notification of the press, as was done when on the death of Pope John Paul II.


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