The church is in a time of ‘idir eatharthu’ – between worlds. Pope Benedict has left his seat – sede vacante. We hear people saying that we should pray that the Holy Spirit will be inspired, etc, etc. We seem to forget that the Holy Spirit is always inspired. It is the nature of the Holy Spirit – that love that exists between the Father and the Son and vice-a-versa. If we understood that love in any way we would have some inclination of the depth and power of the love God has for us.
Rather than put the Holy Spirit ‘under pressure’ we should be looking at the human faces at the centre of this critical time in church history. Praying for the men who must make the decision to elect the new pope is the priority, praying that they will be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The voice of God is not booming but gentle. These men need to be tuned in with listening ears.
A new Pope is expected around March 17 or 18, based on previous periods of ‘sede vacante.’ However, the difference this time is that there is no mourning time so a decision might be arrived at sooner as to who will be the 266th Pope. Watch for Patrick in the name chosen!
117 Cardinals are eligible to vote – a small number when you consider that there are over 240 Cardinals. Anyone over 80 may not vote. Cardinal Keith O’Brien from Scotland resigned recently and Cardinal Darmaatmadja from Indonesia will also not participate, thus reducing the voting number to 115. The number of electors has been limited to 120 by previous popes but the number has been exceeded occasionally. Almost 40 of the electors are currently working in the Roman Curia so some of these will have ‘form’.
It was usually the people and priests of Rome who elected their Bishop of Rome, who is also the Pope. That evolved to the Cardinals in 1059 who then became the exclusive electors of the Pope. They formed the College of Cardinals in 1150.
The College is headed up by a Dean, the first among equals. It is he who has the task of ordaining the chosen successor as Pope. The Camerlengo is the Cardinal who has responsibility for the administrative affairs of the Holy See when there is no Pope in office.
At the outset all Cardinals were based in Rome. That changed in the 12th century when men – Bishops and Archbishops - from outside Rome were named Cardinals. Patriarchs were included in the 15th century. The number of Cardinals at this time did not exceed 30. This was changed by Pope John XX111 in 1958.
From 1962 all Cardinals had to be Bishops. (This rule was ignored by Pope John Paul 11 when he ordained Henri de Lubac and Avery Dulles as Cardinals.) Pope Paul V1 made a place for the Oriental Patriarch in 1965 and in 1970 ruled that any Cardinal over 80 could not vote in a conclave. In 1973 he set the maximum number of Cardinals with voting rights at 120.
How groundbreaking would it be if the new Pope changed the rules again to allow women to be Cardinals, ensuring that there is a female vote in the next conclave? He could rule that women could be Cardinals without being Bishops… A female voice in a conclave would be most interesting. Shekinah (a feminine word) is the Hebrew word for the presence of God.
Isn’t it somewhat amazing that church leaders have not exhorted the faithful to join them in prayer during the conclave? With Cardinals meeting this week is there a church prayer service organised anywhere by any bishop at this crucial time? Is there any formal invitation to believers, especially during Lent, to pray and fast during the conclave? This would involve the faithful and allow some form of ‘participation and ownership’ of the whole election process.
Among the Cardinal electors are Cardinals Brady, Burke, Collins, Dolan, Mahony, O’Brien (with another O’Brien resigned) and O’Malley. This block could have considerable clout from an Irish perspective! It would make up for the ghastly ‘betrayal’ by Pope Adrian 1V.
One year after his election in 1154, he issued a Papal Bull or Laudabiliter that gave the English King Henry 11 the ‘right’ to invade Ireland for “the correction of morals and the introduction of virtues, for the advancement of the Christian religion.” It took ten years for the so-called invasion.
Pope Adrian died in 1159. In 1166 King Henry responded to the Leinster King, Dermot MacMurrogh, for help to regain his kingdom and sent his Anglo-Norman knights. The rest, as they say, is history!
May the new Pope be inspired, grace-filled, humble, happy and prayerful.