Tuesday, April 05, 2005

 

Conclave

The Conclave, which literally means "locked with a key," is that period during which the Cardinals meet to elect a new Pope. There are 117 Cardinals (114 of them were appointed by John Paul II), and all of them are eligible to vote save for those over the age of 80. The Conclave itself must begin no sooner than 15 days and no later than 20 days after the death of a Pope, so April 17th. would be the earliest date by which the Conclave could begin. And for the curious, yes, the Cardinals really are locked into the Sistine Chapel until a new Pope is elected. They will be frisked and wanded for any electronic devices before they enter the Chapel, to ensure that no word can get out prematurely and that no outside influence can get in.

Again, Catholic Online has a wonderfully concise explanation of this time:

The days after the funeral and before the Conclave begins offers the cardinals an opportunity to discuss the state of the Church. They may not do so in a manner which constitutes politicking or electioneering for office or for votes.

"The Cardinal electors shall ... abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons" (UDG 81)

Nor may the Cardinals "enter into any stipulations, committing themselves of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated to the Pontificate" (UDG 82).

Such promises would, in fact, be null and void (ibid).

There may, however, be "during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election" (UDG 81)

If despite the solemn law of the Church, and the penalty of automatic excommunication for selling or trading votes, the validity of the election itself shall not be in doubt. Universi Dominici Gregis states,

79. If—God forbid—in the election of the Roman Pontiff the crime of simony were to be perpetrated, I decree and declare that all those guilty thereof shall incur excommunication latae sententiae. At the same time I remove the nullity or invalidity of the same simoniacal provision, in order that—as was already established by my Predecessors—the validity of the election of the Roman Pontiff may not for this reason be challenged.

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