Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login

What happens when a pope dies?

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
This topic is archived.
Home » Discuss » Archives » General Discussion (Through 2005) Donate to DU
trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:30 AM
Original message
What happens when a pope dies?
I found this fascinating, especially the silver hammer part.

Every pope has the equivalent of a chief of staff, called the camerlengo. When a pope dies, the camerlengo must first certify that he is indeed dead. The ritual tradition is to strike him on the forehead with a silver hammer, calling his baptismal name three times. An alternative is to place a cloth over his mouth. If he does not respond, the camerlengo declares him dead, authorizes a death certificate and then seals the papal living and working apartments.

Later, the silver hammer will be used to scratch and break the papal ring and seal, so no documents can be forged in his name.

All cardinals will hasten to Rome to undertake the administration of the interregnum, the period between popes. The only governing they do is attending to administrative matters, overseeing funeral arrangements for the deceased pope and electing his successor.

In times past, outsiders pressured the cardinals to choose a pope to suit one faction or another. Wars were even fought between different blocs, delaying the selection of a pope for years in some cases. Three years after the death of Pope Clement IV in 1268, the cardinals still had not chosen a successor. Civil officials grew tired of waiting and locked the cardinals in their meeting place, tearing the roof off the building to expose the cardinals to the elements! Not surprisingly, they chose a new pope almost immediately!

That was Pope Gregory, who established a rule in 1274 that cardinals thenceforth were to be locked in with a key to avoid outside influence. The name of the process is a conclave, from the Latin com and clavis for, "with a key."

Today's conclave is very similar to what Gregory established. It is held in extreme secrecy in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Before the meetings begin, the chapel is swept several times for electronic eavesdropping devicessomething the church did not have to worry about in the 13th century. When assured of privacy, the cardinals are locked into the chapel and the doors are sealed inside and out with keys and ribbons. Every participant takes a vow of complete secrecy.

The balloting

The cardinals select three of their number to fill the role of scrutineers for every ballot. Everyone receives a piece of paper with Eligo in Summum Pontificem (Latin for "I select as Supreme Pontiff") printed on it. He writes his choice in disguised handwriting and folds the ballot over twice. Each then walks with his ballot, holding it high in the air, to where the scrutineers are seated. He places it on a plate and then tips the plate into a chalice, so all can see what he is doing.

After each vote, the scrutineers count the folded ballots to make sure they match the number of cardinals. (Only cardinals under the age of 80 at the time the pope dies are eligible to vote.) If the numbers don't match, the ballots are burned and not counted.

If they match, the first scrutineer takes them one by one and marks down the name. The second scrutineer does the same, creating a duplicate record. The third scrutineer pierces the "Eligo" on the counted ballot with a needle and thread, adding all ballots to a long string to ensure that they aren't accidentally counted more than once.

A two-thirds majority is necessary to elect a pope. If the vote is unsuccessful, all ballots and the string are burned in a stove with some chemical pellets that produce black smoke. The black smoke puffing from the chimney tells the world that there is no pope yet.

A second ballot is taken immediately. A third is taken in the afternoon or perhaps the next day. John Paul established a rule that allows the cardinals to choose a pope by simple majority if they haven't agreed upon one after 12 or 13 days.

When someone is chosen, he is approached and asked in Latin if he accepts. If he answers yes, he is asked by what name he wishes to be called. That follows a custom begun in 533 when a cardinal named Mercury was chosen as pope. The church did not think it appropriate for their leader to have the name of a pagan deity, so Mercury changed his name to honor a previous pope. Modern popes all do the same.

The successful ballot is burned with pellets that emit a white smoke, indicating that the church has a new leader. He is fitted with papal robes (several sizes are on hand) and immediately introduced to the waiting crowd in St. Peter's square.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Pepperbelly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:35 AM
Response to Original message
1. who knew the Catholics would be so ritualistic? nt
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
animuscitizen Donating Member (124 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:54 AM
Response to Reply #1
5. They are ritualistic--they evolved from paganism
Catholics have many traditions and rituals that resemble their pagan ancestors. There are also elements of mysticism in Catholicism. The mystical/Catholic combination is common in South America, for example.

This was one of many things that upset Martin Luther and led to the creation of the Protestant Church.

I gave up on religion years ago. But I believe the pagan
influence makes the Catholic Church beautiful and interesting. Protestant churches are boring in comparison.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
0007 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:55 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. The Russian & Greek Orthodox are more so!
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
TexasProgresive Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:36 AM
Response to Original message
2. Good explanation-
The balloting proceedure is much like that of our neighbor to the north - paper ballots, scrutineers - quick and no fuss. Where's Diebold when you need 'em.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Clark2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:37 AM
Response to Original message
3. I keep hearing this repeated about the hammer, but they won't do that
more than likely.

As recently as 40 years ago, the Camerlengo did this by tapping the pope's head three times with a small hammer and shouting his family name close to his ear, but that colorful ritual is not mentioned in the 1996 revisions made by Pope John Paul II to streamline the process, and referred to by the opening Latin words of the document as "Universi Domini Gregis..." -- The shepherd of the Lord's whole flock...

However, the Camerlengo is still required to slip the papal ring off the dead pope's finger, and smash the official papal seal.

The Camerlengo -- currently the Spanish-born Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo -- will hold daily meetings of all the cardinals present, and the number gets bigger as more cardinals arrive in Rome.

I honestly wish news organizations would search beyond their own noses.

Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 08:51 AM
Response to Original message
4. Excellent find! A tip o' the Mitre to you!
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Selteri Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:01 AM
Response to Original message
7. You forgot about the bell being rung to annouce
the passing of the pope.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
Kindigger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-02-05 09:11 AM
Response to Original message
8. Very interesting
Thank you :)

I agree with the other poster, who said it's the rituals that make it beautiful, and fascinating.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top
DU AdBot (1000+ posts) Click to send private message to this author Click to view 
this author's profile Click to add 
this author to your buddy list Click to add 
this author to your Ignore list Tue Oct 15th 2019, 08:48 PM
Response to Original message
Advertisements [?]

Home » Discuss » Archives » General Discussion (Through 2005) Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators

Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC