Thursday, February 28, 2013

Papal Interregnum

The Ombrellino, the Papal Coat of Arms at Sede Vacante.

At 8PM in Rome -- 2PM Eastern Standard Time in the United States -- the Chair of St. Peter became vacant, sede vacante, and the period of interregnum commenced.  What does this mean and what happens next?

In the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, of Pope John Paul II, the procedure and rules for the functioning of the Church without a Sovereign Pontiff is outlined.  In my post below, I have quotations from that Apostolic Constitution colored blue, while quotations from the Director of the Holy See Press Office will be green, for the sake of clarity. You can find the full text of Universi Dominici Gregis:

The first three paragraphs of that Apostolic Constitution outline the situation:
"1. During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the College of Cardinals has no power or jurisdiction in matters which pertain to the Supreme Pontiff during his lifetime or in the exercise of his office; such matters are to be reserved completely and exclusively to the future Pope. I therefore declare null and void any act of power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff during his lifetime or in the exercise of his office which the College of Cardinals might see fit to exercise, beyond the limits expressly permitted in this Constitution.

2. During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the government of the Church is entrusted to the College of Cardinals solely for the dispatch of ordinary business and of matters which cannot be postponed (cf. No. 6), and for the preparation of everything necessary for the election of the new Pope. This task must be carried out in the ways and within the limits set down by this Constitution: consequently, those matters are to be absolutely excluded which, whether by law or by practice, come under the power of the Roman Pontiff alone or concern the norms for the election of the new Pope laid down in the present Constitution.

3. I further establish that the College of Cardinals may make no dispositions whatsoever concerning the rights of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Church, much less allow any of these rights to lapse, either directly or indirectly, even though it be to resolve disputes or to prosecute actions perpetrated against these same rights after the death or valid resignation of the Pope.  All the Cardinals are obliged to defend these rights."

Here we see that the government of the Apostolic See and that of the Church devolves to the College of Cardinals, but not with the full authority of the Successor St. Peter.  The Cardinals are merely caretakers that are to "dispatch of ordinary business and of matters which cannot be postponed."  There cardinal duty is in the preparation for, and election of, a new Bishop of Rome.

The Press Office of the Vatican announced earlier this week: "Regarding the beginning of the Congregations of Cardinals, the dean of the College of Cardinals will send a letter to all the cardinals on 1 March, calling them to Rome."

The Dean, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, will summon the Cardinals, as he would in the case of the death of the Pope, in conformitity with the Apostolic Constitution:
"19. The Dean of the College of Cardinals, for his part, as soon as he has been informed of the Pope's death by the Cardinal Camerlengo or the Prefect of the Papal Household, shall inform all the Cardinals and convoke them for the Congregations of the College. He shall also communicate news of the Pope's death to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See and to the Heads of the respective Nations."
The Cardinals, in their execution of their functions, are to meet in two manners of Congregations -- Particular and General.  Universi Dominici Gregis provides:
"7. While the See is vacant, there are two kinds of Congregations of the Cardinals: General Congregations, which include the whole College and are held before the beginning of the election, and Particular Congregations. All the Cardinals who are not legitimately impeded must attend the General Congregations, once they have been informed of the vacancy of the Apostolic See. Cardinals who, by virtue of No. 33 of this Constitution, do not enjoy the right of electing the Pope are granted the faculty of not attending these General Congregations, should they prefer.
The Particular Congregation is made up of the Cardinal Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church and three Cardinals, one from each Order, chosen by lot from among the Cardinal electors already present in Rome. The office of these Cardinals, called Assistants, ceases at the conclusion of the third full day, and their place is taken by others, also chosen by lot and having the same term of office, also after the election has begun.

During the time of the election, more important matters are, if necessary, dealt with by the assembly of the Cardinal electors, while ordinary affairs continue to be dealt with by the Particular Congregation of Cardinals. In the General and Particular Congregations, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Cardinals are to wear the usual black cassock with piping and the red sash, with skull-cap, pectoral cross and ring."

"9. At these Congregations the Dean of the College presides or, should he be absent or lawfully impeded, the Subdean. If one or both of these, in accordance with No. 33 of this Constitution [Limiting suffrage to Cardinals under 80], no longer enjoy the right of electing the Pope, the assembly of the Cardinal electors will be presided over by the senior Cardinal elector, according to the customary order of precedence."

So, the General Congregations, or a meetings of all of the Cardinals presided over by the Dean (in those meetings of only Cardinal-Electors, the Senior Cardinal-Elector presides -- since Angelo Cardinal Sodano is over 80, it would be Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, by my calculations) are charged with the most serious matters, while the Particular Congregation, under the direction of the Cardinal Camerlengo, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, will attend to the mundane details that might come up.

These Congregations continue those matters that can't be delayed, and, most especially, prepare for the coming Conclave to elect the new Pontiff.  If the pope had died, they would oversee the funeral rites.

It is worth noting that with the vacancy of the Apostolic Throne, most Vatican officials lose their full authority, save the Camerlengo (Chamberlain) and Major Penitentiary, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome (who manages the day-to-day affairs of that Diocese), the Archpriest of the Vatican, and the Vicar General of Vatican City, as provided below:
"14. According to the provisions of Article 6 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus,13 at the death [or abdication, presumably] of the Pope all the heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia — the Cardinal Secretary of State and the Cardinal Prefects, the Archbishop Presidents, together with the members of those Dicasteries — cease to exercise their office. An exception is made for the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church and the Major Penitentiary, who continue to exercise their ordinary functions, submitting to the College of Cardinals matters that would have had to be referred to the Supreme Pontiff.

Likewise, in conformity with the Apostolic Constitution Vicariae Potestatis (No. 2 § 1),14 the Cardinal Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome continues in office during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, as does the Cardinal Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica and Vicar General for Vatican City for his jurisdiction."

A few particulars of the operation of the Holy See during the interregnum follow:
"20. During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, the Secretary for Relations with States and the Secretaries of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia remain in charge of their respective offices, and are responsible to the College of Cardinals.
21. In the same way, the office and attendant powers of Papal Representatives do not lapse.
22. The Almoner of His Holiness will also continue to carry out works of charity in accordance with the criteria employed during the Pope's lifetime. He will be dependent upon the College of Cardinals until the election of the new Pope.
23. During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, all the civil power of the Supreme Pontiff concerning the government of Vatican City State belongs to the College of Cardinals, which however will be unable to issue decrees except in cases of urgent necessity and solely for the time in which the Holy See is vacant. Such decrees will be valid for the future only if the new Pope confirms them."

What then of the former Holy Father, Benedict XVI?  What is the role of the Successor of St. Peter who has abdicated?  Actually, this is rather uncharted territory, and only in recent days have we received answers to some of the details of the post-pontifical status of Benedict.

The Holy See Press office has noted the following:
"Benedict XVI will be “Pontiff emeritus” or “Pope emeritus”, as Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, reported in a press conference on th final days of the current pontificate. He will keep the name of “His Holiness, Benedict XVI” and will dress in a simple white cassock without the mozzetta (elbow-length cape)."

So, we are to have a "Pope Emeritus," who will not revert to his pre-Papal name of Joseph Ratzinger.  It seems then, too, he will not receive a titular see, as retired Ordinaries are not in need of such a titular See, and it seems likely that he will remain in this unique status, rather than being returned to the College of Cardinals.  He remains "His Holiness," not "His Eminence."  Of course, he is still a Bishop, but one who, having retired, has set aside his jurisdiction to rule -- thus, he is obviously no longer to speak Ex Cathedra, as he no longer sits in the Chair of Peter.

The Press Office announced earlier this week, that the schedule of the last day of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI would unfold thus:
"On the morning of 28 February, the last day of his pontificate, the Pope will meet with, again in the Clementine Hall, the cardinals what are present in Rome. At 4:55pm [10:55AM EST], in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace and before a detachment of the Swiss Guards, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., secretary of State of His Holiness, and and other members of that dicastery will bid him farewell. The Pope's helicopter will land at Castel Gandolfo at 5:15pm [11:15AM EST], where he will be received by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, respectively president and secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State along with Bishop Marcello Semeraro of the Diocese of Albano [the Diocese within which sits the Castle], and civil authorities of the locality.

Benedict XVI will appear at the balcony of the Castel Gandolfo Apostolic Palace to greet those who have gathered in the square to wish him well. The Sede Vacante will begin at 8:00pm and the Swiss Guards assigned to him at Castel Gandolfo will take their leave, as their corps is dedicated to the safe-guarding of the Roman Pontiff. Instead, the Vatican Gendarmerie will take over the Pope emeritus' safety detail."
The Swiss Guard, charged with the protection of the Pope, will hand over that duty, as Benedict is no longer Pope!
As with the death of a Pontiff: "the “Fisherman's Ring”...will be destroyed along with the lead seal of the pontificate. This task falls to the cardinal camerlengo and his assistants."
The symbols of his particular authority and of his specific pontificate will be destoyed -- as is customary.
Finally, and notable for fashion: "Likewise, the Press Office director announced that the Pope will no longer wear the red papal shoes."

So begins the period of interregnum.

This site is a good resource for other details of this time in the Church:

There is much more to say of conclaves!

Live well!

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