Tuesday, April 05, 2005

 

Interregnum and Novendiales

The period immediately following the death of a Pope and the election of the next Pope is known as the "interregnum" which is Latin for "between the reign of one Pope and another." It's the period we will be in until the next Pope has been officially announced. The Interregnum is governed by papal law, and there must be absolutely no change in the governance of the Church "or to the spiritual or material patrimony of St. Peter, save the election of his successor." When the Cardinals are literally locked into the Sistine Chapel, they will begin the prayerful selection of the next Pope, and will announce their progress each day by burning the ballots. If no new Pope has been elected, the smoke will be the normal black smoke associated with the burning of hundreds of pieces of paper. When the new Pope has been selected, a special brick will be added to the paper ballots being burnt and white smoke will pour forth from the chimney. At this time, the interregnum will be at an end.

As well as being in the period known as the Interregnum, the Catholic Church is also in a period of mourning for nine days. Catholic Online explains this far better than I could:

An official mourning period of nine days, called the Novendiales, begins when a Pope dies. The day of death is counted as the first day of this period. On each of these nine days the Mass of each Cardinal must be a funeral rite for the Pope.

Indeed, the Missal provides a Mass formula "For a Deceased Pope" which can be used by any priest during this time, if the liturgical season permits.

Prior to his burial, and following private rites in the Sistine Chapel, the Pope is laid in state in St. Peter’s Basilica, permitting the faithful to pay their respects. Between the fourth and sixth day after his death (that is, on the 5th, 6th or 7th day of the mourning period) a Solemn Funeral is celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, with the other Cardinals. The deceased Pope is then buried, most likely in the crypt of St. Peter’s. The mourning period then continues until the nine days are completed.

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