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Who is the Pope? Part three

February 25, 2013
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We started looking at the papacy and some history as explained in the In Your Faith episode, Who is the Pope? and then last time we looked at why we have popes. Today, let’s continue with some interesting facts about the papacy.
As soon as a pope dies, all cardinals under the age of 80 are called to a conclave to elect the new pope. Conclave comes from the Latin, "cum clave" which means, "with key", because the cardinals are literally locked under key in the Sistine Chapel (well, do go out for meals and to sleep) until they elect a new pope.
Once the voting starts, there are two votes in the morning and two votes in the evening. The ballots are cast anonymously. After voting, ballots are burned in a special stove whose chimney is visible from St. Peter's Square. Black smoke means there is no pope. White smoke means there is a new pope. [For a really neat and quick lesson on conclaves and how they work, visit the Vatican Insider.]
Any baptized male is eligible to be elected pope, but since 1378 all new popes have come from the College of Cardinals.
A pope is allowed to resign. No one has to accept the resignation. The vacancy would then be filled by a normal conclave. Several popes have resigned, including Benedict IX (1032-45), Gregory VI (1045-46), Celestine V (July-Dec 1294) and Gregory XII (1406-15). [It’s very interesting to look into this history. The circumstances of these resignations were very different than our current day retirement.]
A pope may not be removed even if he becomes incapacitated; however no pope has ever lost his mental capacity, but, two years after taking office, Pope Clement XII (1730-40) went blind. He also had a severe case of gout and spent most of his ten years as pope in bed.
Recently, I suggested that we do a Faith Challenge, to learn about, live and share our faith (since it’s the Year of Faith). Every week I am posting a challenge on my Facebook page and sending updates through my Twitter account. This past week, the challenge was to learn what our Church teaches about the papacy. I also suggested that we learn one thing that we did not already know about the papacy or our popes. Now you can say that you’ve learned a few new things.
And write to me. Who is your favourite pope? Do you think that we will start calling John Paul II “the great”? What do you think Benedict will be remembered for? Do you think that we’re ready for more change? John Paul II left us decades of teachings that we still have to unpack; did you think that was what Benedict XVI would do? Were you surprised at some of BXVI’s teachings (think of the encyclicals and books he wrote), did you enjoy them or did you think that he would help us understand all the great things JPII did? Or perhaps, you think that’s exactly what he did?
These are all good questions, but also remember that ultimately, no matter who the pope is, it’s still the same Church. The church teaching will remain the same, no matter who the pope is.
A friend told me when JPII died that she really missed him. That he made her feel like we were one Church. And it’s true; we may be sad because it’s the end of a time and we may miss that particular pope who we liked. But we have to remember, no matter what, we are one Church; and the real leader of the Church is Jesus Christ.
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If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask, it’s as simple as writing a comment below, contacting us via Facebook or Twitter or sending me an email or contacting me through Facebook or Twitter– and do let us know what you’re thoughts are on this. We all struggle with understanding our Faith.
And for an easy-to-understand approach to many faith-related topics, remember to watch In Your Faith (check our schedule for air times). Both seasons are now available for sale, with topics such as Who is the Pope? Why Doesn’t the Church Get With the Times? Y B Catholic? Who is Jesus? Who is Mary? Where Do I Fit in the World? and all the Sacraments. For more information visit our S+L Store.
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*Read previous In Your Faith posts on the Sacraments:
What is a Sacrament? part one, part two and part three
What is Baptism? part one, part two and part three
What is Reconciliation? part one, part two and part three
What is the Eucharist? part one, part two
and part three
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