When the Swiss Guards closed the door to the palace at Castel Gandolfo, signifying the absence of a pope, three cardinals were left with the task of guiding the church until a new pope is elected.
The Camerlengo, or Chamberlain, begins his work when the See of Peter is vacant. When a Pope dies, the Chamberlain is summoned to verify the pope's death and destroy the Fisherman's ring worn by the pontiff, and all papal seals. This is done to ensure no documents or orders can be issued in the pope's name.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the current Chamberlain. While he did not have to verify the pope's death, he will have the responsibility of destroying Pope Benedict's papal ring and the seal that the former pope used on all of his official documents.
The Chamberlain is responsible for the temporal goods of the church. He is tasked with overseeing the daily business of running the Apostolic Palace, the Lateran Palace, and Castel Gandolfo. This includes sealing off all papal apartments.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, told journalists that the papal apartments at Castel Gandolfo would not be sealed, mainly because no important papal documents are kept there. The pope uses Castel Gandolfo during his summer holidays.
The Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Sodano, is responsible for calling the Cardinal Electors to Rome to begin the process of electing the next pope. Sodano was scheduled to make the official summons on Friday, March 1.
Most Cardinal Electors were in Rome on February 28 to take part in the final meeting between the College of Cardinals and Pope Benedict.
Cardinal Sodano will have to preside over the General Congregations, or the meetings of the College of Cardinals that are held to determine when the Conclave will begin to elect the next pope.
The third official who keeps his position during the interregnum is the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal Manuel Montiero de Castro. Forgiveness has to be available at any time to any sinner, which is why Cardinal Montiero de Castro can even receive messages from his aides while he is inside the locked Sistine Chapel.
The Church has now entered a significant moment in its history: Sede Vacante. During this period, the Vatican's coat of arms changes. A special coat of arms is used in which the papal mitre is replaced by a canopy over the two keys. This special insignia appears in various places during the interregnum, including special postage stamps prepared by the Vatican Post Office.
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