Over the coming days, many area Catholics will be focused on two traditions — the observance of Lent and the election of a new pope.
Pope Benedict XVI surprised the world when he announced Feb. 10 he would resign from his position, effective Thursday, because he said he didn't have the energy to carry out the job. The last time a pope resigned was 600 years ago.
Cardinals, the second-ranking clergy leaders beneath the pope, plan to meet beginning Monday to discuss the needs of the church and set the date for the special meeting, or conclave, at which they elect a new pope.
Here's a brief look at the process. The information comes from Fort Wayne native Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C.; other USCCB resource materials; Catholic News Service reports; and the Vatican news website, www.news.va:
The Vatican announced Tuesday that Benedict now will be known as “Pope emeritus” and will keep the name “His Holiness, Benedict XVI.”
He will dress in a simple white cassock rather than a pope's more elegant robes, and no longer will wear the red shoes of a pope.
Benedict departed by helicopter from Vatican City late Thursday afternoon and landed about 20 minutes later at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. Reports have said Benedict will stay there while workers renovate a monastery on Vatican grounds in Rome to accommodate him.
Benedict said he plans to continue serving the church through a life of prayer and study, and Thursday he pledged he will obey the new pope.
All cardinals have been called to Rome to participate in the Congregations of Cardinals, where they will discuss issues facing the church and the qualities most needed in the next pope.
That gathering will be followed by the conclave, the secretive meeting at which cardinals age 79 or younger elect a pope.
Normally, the cardinals hold a conclave 15 to 20 days after the death of a pope, which allows time to plan the funeral and hold the Congregations of Cardinals discussions. Because Benedict resigned, they may start sooner.
During the interim, the Catholic Church will be governed by its cardinals.
This conclave will be guided by some recent rules put in place by Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
A rule added by John Paul II requires the conclave to take place in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. He also revised church law to say only cardinals age 79 or younger on the day the papacy becomes vacant can participate in the conclave. That change prevented cardinals from picking a conclave start date to include or exclude a man who was near 80 years old.
The church has said 117 cardinals worldwide are of eligible age to participate in the conclave. So far, two of those have said they will not attend, one for health reasons and the other because he faces allegations of abusing priests.
A pope traditionally needs two-thirds of the conclave vote total to be elected. In 2007, Benedict issued a rule stating that, in case of a tie that lasts through 33 to 34 votes (about 12 to 13 days), the cardinals then will hold a run-off election between the top two vote-getters, with the winner needing two-thirds of the vote to be elected. The top two candidates can't vote in the run-off election.
Technically, any baptized Catholic male in good standing with the church can be elected pope. However, he must become a bishop before taking office.
That isn't likely to be an issue: Conclave members have elected a fellow cardinal each time since the 1400s.
The conclave process is very secretive. The Catholic News Service provided these details:
Several people who are not cardinals, including two masters of ceremonies, are allowed in the Sistine Chapel at the start of the process. The masters of ceremonies prepare and distribute ballots to all of the cardinals.
Nine cardinals then are selected randomly: Three who will serve as voting judges, or “scrutineers”; three who will collect votes by eligible cardinals who are ill and staying in their rooms on the Vatican grounds; and “revisers,” who check the work of the scrutineers.
Those who are not cardinals then leave, and the cardinals vote on a rectangular paper ballot, writing the name of their choice for pope on the bottom of the paper. They then fold the ballot twice.
The three cardinals then go collect the ballots of any sick cardinals.
When it is time to cast the ballots, each cardinal holds up his vote as he walks to the Sistine Chapel's altar and says, “I call as my witness Christ the Lord, who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected.”
He then sets the ballot on top of a plate covering a large chalice or urn, and tips up the plate to let the ballot slide down into the container.
When all have voted, one scrutineer shakes the chalice or urn to mix the votes. The scrutineers then count the ballots one by one, with the final scrutineer calling out the name of the person who received that vote. The other cardinals keep a tally to see if anyone receives the two-thirds majority needed for election.
Votes are held twice each morning and twice each afternoon until there is a winner. The voting is divided into blocks, however, with three days of voting, and then a break of as much as a day for prayer and discussion. The process resumes with a repeating cycle of seven votes and a pause until they elect a pope.
During the conclave, the outside world's only hint about the voting comes from the burning of ballots and notes in a furnace near the Sistine Chapel. The burning takes place after the morning and afternoon votes.
If there is no winner, they add a chemical to produce black smoke. If they elect a new pope, they burn those ballets immediately with a chemical to make the smoke white.
When cardinals elect a pope, the first question asked of him is, “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?” If he says yes, the next question is, “By what name do you wish to be called?”
Since the election of Sylvester II in 999, men elected pope have chosen a papal name. Before that, most used the name under which they were baptized.
In the Catholic Church's approximately 2,000-year history, new popes have taken one of only 81 different names. Pope John, selected by 23 men, has been the most popular. The last pope to select a name not used previously was Pope Lando in 913.
The public typically learns the name of the new pope about two hours after he is elected. He first must change into papal robes, and then he meets with the conclave cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, where they pledge their obedience.
Afterward, the senior cardinal deacon — currently French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran — will appear on the balcony at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and, in Latin, announce the name of the new pope. The pope soon will appear in the balcony to give his first blessing as church leader.