Tag Archives: conclave

What Is the College of Cardinals?

27 Feb

cardinalsThe college of cardinals refers collectively to the cardinals of the Catholic Church. “College” comes from the Latin word collegium, meaning “society,” from which we derive English words such as “collection” and “colleague.”

Cardinals themselves are the highest ranking Catholic prelates under the Pope himself. Therefore, it is fitting that the cardinals, coming together as a body or “society,” are given the important task of selecting a new Pope in the event of a vacancy in the See of Peter.

According to Church law, the Pope freely selects those who are to serve the Church as cardinals. They are usually bishops or archbishops, though priests are also eligible for this office. In recent times, Cardinal Avery Dulles (1918-2008), a distinguished Jesuit theologian and priest, is an example. Those selected as cardinals are “especially outstanding for their doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action” (Code of Canon Law, canon 351).

Since cardinals are created by a decree of the Roman Pontiff, no new cardinals may be added to the college during a vacancy in the papacy.

For more on the demographic background of the current college of cardinals, click here. For reliable responses to some common misconceptions about the upcoming conclave, click here or here.

Chair-man of the Board!

22 Feb

Pope seatedToday the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. When I first returned to the Church way back when, I thought this feast sounded really strange. I was okay with celebrating events from the life of Christ, and even with celebrating feasts in honor of special saints. But a chair?

Then I read that ever since the fourth century, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter has been celebrated in Rome as a sign of the unity of the Church founded upon that apostle. Hmmm. There must be more to the story . . .

One thing I learned early on is that the word for “chair” in Latin is cathedra. And so when the Pope teaches authoritatively in the area of faith and morals, he is said to speak “ex cathedra,” or “from the chair,” indicating the binding nature of the teaching on the Christian faithful.

And because cathedra literally refers to the established seat of the bishop, the “mother church” of a diocese that contains this seat is known as a “cathedral.” The chair or seat of a bishop symbolizes his authority as a successor of the apostles, and in a special way it symbolizes his “magisterium” or teaching office, in that he called to guard and proclaim the deposit of faith for the benefit of the local Church.

As Pope Benedict teaches, “When the bishop takes possession of the local Church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd’s crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.”

The first “seat” of the Church was the Upper Room where, in all probability, there was a special place reserved for Simon Peter as they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:13-15).

From there the “seat” of Peter moved to Antioch, the city where “for the first time the disciples were called Christians” (Acts 11:26), as Peter became that community’s first bishop.

From there, providence led Peter to Rome, where his service to the Gospel was crowned with martyrdom.

In this way, Rome came to be known as the “See” of the successor of Peter and the home of the Pope’s “cathedra,” which represents the mission entrusted to him by Christ to shepherd His entire flock. Incidentally, the Pope’s cathedral church as Bishop of Rome is not St. Peter’s, but St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, identified as the “Mother and Head” of all the churches in the world.

Rome’s significance as the See of Peter is attested by the most ancient Fathers of the Church. For example, St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (c. 200 A.D.), described the Church of Rome as “greatest and most ancient, known by all; . . . founded and constituted at Rome by the two glorious Apostles Peter and Paul . . . With this Church, because of her outstanding superiority, the universal Church must be in agreement, that is, the faithful everywhere” (Against Heresies).

In celebrating the “Chair” of Peter we recognize its spiritual significance: It is a special sign of the love of Christ who, as one form of the penitential rite at Mass provides, came to “gather the nations into the peace [and unity] of God’s kingdom.”

During this time of papal transition, let us make our own the words of St. Jerome: “I follow no leader save Christ so I consult the chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built!”

Can Someone Refuse to Be Elected Pope?

18 Feb
St. Philip Benizi

St. Philip Benizi

It is possible to decline the responsibility of becoming the next Pope. There are many instances of prominent cardinals who have made it clear during the conclave that they would not accept if elected.

One famous case is that of St. Philip Benizi. When he learned that he was being considered for the papacy in 1271, he ran away and hid until the cardinals elected somebody else! Usually, though, the newly elected Pope accepts this office as God’s will for him.

In his 1996 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, Pope John Paul II made the following heartfelt plea to those elected after him:

“I . . . ask the one who is elected not to refuse, for fear of its weight, the office to which he has been called, but to submit humbly to the design of the divine will. God who imposes the burden will sustain him with his hand, so that he will be able to bear it. In conferring the heavy task upon him, God will also help him to accomplish it and, in giving him the dignity, he will grant him the strength not to be overwhelmed by the weight of his office” (no. 86).

Once a papal candidate has been elected according to the procedure provided by Church law, the dean of the college of cardinals asks for his consent in the following words: “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?” And, as soon as he has received the consent, he asks him: “By what name do you wish to be called?” (Universi Dominici Gregis, nos. 87-88).

So the process itself makes clear that even after his election, the papal nominee is free to withhold his consent and refuse this office. Only upon giving his consent does he become the new Pope, assuming (as is usually the case) that he has already received ordination as a bishop.

Electoral College

13 Feb

cardinalsThe papacy will be vacant at 8 p.m. on February 28, as Pope Benedict’s resignation goes into effect. The conclave in Rome to elect the next Pope must begin within 20 days of his date of resignation.

Over the coming days we will examine difference issues pertaining to this historic election. Today, let’s look at those who, with the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, will elect the next Pope: the college of cardinals.

At the outset, we should note that not all cardinals will participate in the election. Only those cardinals who have not reached their 80th birthday on the day the Pope leaves office may vote for his successor. There are currently 209 cardinals, but only 117 will be eligible to vote in the upcoming conclave. Most of these cardinal-electors–67 of the 117–have been appointed by Pope Benedict himself. According to rules re-established by Pope Benedict in 2007, the conclave must achieve a two-thirds majority to elect the next successor of St. Peter.

At the last conclave, in April 2005, 115 cardinals voted. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the Supreme Pontiff on the fourth ballot and selected the name Benedict XVI.

In the upcoming conclave, 10% of the cardinal electors (11 of the 117) are from the United States. Here is a list of the American electors, their age, and their current position:

  • Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, 64, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican (former Bishop of La Crosse and Archbishop of St. Louis
  • Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, 63, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston (former Bishop of Sioux City, IA)
  • Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, 63, Archbishop of New York (former Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis and Archbishop of Milwaukee)
  • Cardinal Francis E. George, 76, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, Archbishop of Chicago (for Bishop of Yakima, WA and Archbishop of Portland, OR)
  • Cardinal James M. Harvey, 63, Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome (originally a priest from Milwaukee, for many years served in the papal household)
  • Cardinal William J. Levada, 76, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (former Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Archbishop of Portland and later San Francisco)
  • Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, 76, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles (former Auxiliary Bishop of Fresno and Bishop of Stockton)
  • Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, 73, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (former Archbishop of Military Archdiocese and Baltimore)
  • Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, 68, Archbishop of Boston (former Bishop of Fall River and Palm Beach)
  • Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, 77, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia (former Archbishop of St. Louis and Vatican official)
  • Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, 72, Archbishop of Washington (former Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle and Bishop of Pittsburgh)

What Do We Do Now?

12 Feb

conclaveIn just over two weeks, there will be a vacancy in the papacy until the college of cardinals elects Pope Benedict’s successor. Some of us may be wondering what we as lay people should be doing, if anything, during this time.

In his 1996 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, Blessed John Paul II addressed this question directly in paragraph 84:

“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and above all during the time of the election of the Successor of Peter, the Church is united in a very special way with her Pastors and particularly with the Cardinal electors of the Supreme Pontiff, and she asks God to grant her a new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence. Indeed, following the example of the first Christian community spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:14), the universal Church, spiritually united with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, should persevere with one heart in prayer; thus the election of the new Pope will not be something unconnected with the People of God and concerning the College of electors alone, but will be in a certain sense an act of the whole Church. I therefore lay down that in all cities and other places, at least the more important ones, as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered to the Lord (cf. Mt. 21:22; Mk. 11:24), that he may enlighten the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand.”

Prayer at all levels—individual, family, parish, archdiocese, and beyond—is what the Church asks of the faithful as the cardinals convene to elect a new Pope. Here is one such recommended prayer that draws upon our rich liturgical tradition, courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

PRAYER FOR THE ELECTION OF A NEW POPE

Veni Creator (Come Holy Spirit)

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator, come
From thy bright heavenly throne,
Come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thy own!

Thou who are called the Paraclete,
Best gift of God above,
The living spring, the living fire,
Sweet unction and true love!

Thou who art sevenfold in thy grace,
Finger of God’s right hand,
His promise, teaching little ones
To speak and understand.

O guide our minds with thy blest light,
With love our hearts inflame;
and with thy strength which ne’er decays
Confirm our mortal frame.

Far from us drive our deadly foe;
True peace unto us bring;
And from all perils lead us safe
Beneath thy sacred wing.

Through thee may we the Father know,
Through thee, th’eternal Son,
and thee the Spirit of them both,
Thrice-blessed Three in One.

All glory to the Father be,
with his co-equal Son;
The same to thee, great Paraclete,
While endless ages run. Amen.

V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant your Church a shepherd
who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

I will raise up for myself a faithful priest; he will do what is in my heart and in my mind, says the Lord. —1 Sam. 2:35