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Archive of February 24, 2013

The 'strictest' secrecy: a look at how conclaves work

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI's successor will soon be elected during a conclave, a secret vote of cardinals that will occur in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel next month.

The number of cardinal-electors, who will travel to Rome from across the globe, is limited to 120, and only those cardinals who are not yet 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave.

Conclaves are events of “the strictest secrecy,” to preserve the impartiality of proceedings. Cardinal-electors must “promise, pledge and swear...to maintain rigorous secrecy” about everything in any way related to the election of the Pope, according to John Paul II's 1996 apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis.”

The cardinals are not allowed to communicate with those outside the area of the election. Only a limited number of masters of ceremonies and priests are allowed to be present, as are two medical doctors. The cardinal-electors stay at “Saint Martha's House,” a guest house adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica.

While the papacy is vacant, all the heads of the Roman Curia lose their office, except the Camerlengo – who administers Church finances and property – and the Major Penitentiary, who deals with issues of absolution and indulgences.

The conclave begins with the votive Mass for the election of the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica. The cardinals then invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and enter the Sistine Chapel.

A well-trusted priest presents the cardinals with a meditation on the problems facing the Church and the need for discernment, “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church, having only God before their eyes.”

The priest who offered the meditation then leaves the Sistine Chapel, and the voting process begins.

John Paul II allowed for a simple majority for a valid election, but Pope Benedict's “Constitutione apostolica” returned to the long-standing tradition of a two-thirds majority.

Each cardinal writes his choice for Pope on a piece of paper which is folded in two. The ballots are then counted, double-checked, and burned. The voting process continues until one candidate has received two-thirds of the ballots.

When the ballots of an inconclusive vote are burned, the smoke is made black. If the vote elected a Pope, it is white; and at the 2005 conclave, the bells of St. Peter's were rung in addition, upon the election of Pope Benedict.

John Paul II exhorted that the one elected not 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.”

The man elected is immediately the Bishop of Rome upon his acceptance, assuming he has already been consecrated a bishop. One of the cardinals announce to the public that the election has taken place, and the new Pontiff gives a blessing from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.

Pope Benedict will resign at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, and at that time there will be 117 cardinal-electors. Under current law, the conclave must begin between March 15 and 20. Of the 117 cardinal-electors, 67 – more than half – were appointed by Pope Benedict.

The conclave as the means of selecting the Pope has a long tradition in the Church, yet it can be changed.

Current law governing how conclaves work is found in John Paul II's 1996 apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” and it was modified by Pope Benedict's 2007 motu proprio “Constitutione apostolica.”

Under current law, the conclave cannot begin before 15 days after the moment the Holy See is vacant, so as to wait for the absent cardinal-electors to arrive. It must begin within 20 days of the vacancy.

It was announced Feb. 20 that Pope Benedict is considering releasing a motu proprio before his abdication that would allow the conclave electing his successor to begin before March 15.

Recent conclaves have concluded quickly. Pope Benedict was himself elected in a 2005 conclave that lasted only two days. John Paul II was elected in 1978 after a three-day long conclave.

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Protestant scholar lauds Benedict's ecumenical strides

Pasadena, Calif., Feb 24, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Benedict has been a leader devoted to ecumenical efforts, according to a professor of Christian history and ecumenism at Fuller Theological Seminary, a Protestant school in Pasadena, Calif.

“I have appreciated his commitment to ecumenism,” Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., who is also a minister in the Assemblies of God, an ecclesial community in the Pentecostal tradition, told CNA Feb. 19.

Robeck participated in the third inter-faith gathering at Assisi with Pope Benedict in 2011, and corresponded with him when he was still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

After the warmth of John Paul II's pontificate, Robeck said there was some apprehension in the Protestant world that Pope Benedict might not “carry on in the way John Paul had.”

Yet Pope Benedict “pretty much set everybody at ease by re-committing himself” to ecumenical efforts, Robeck said. He reported that in a July 2011 Pope Benedict greeted a Pentecostal group during an outdoor address, which “for me was a very affirming kind of thing.”

“He's the first Pope we've heard make a verbal statements in his speech welcoming the Pentecostals, wishing us well and saying how important he felt the (Pentecostal-Catholic) dialogue was,” Robeck remembered.

Robeck said Pope Benedict's three-book series on Jesus of Nazareth was warmly received by Pentecostals. “Benedict really won them over with his three volume series on the life of Jesus; that's a very important contribution he's made to the evangelical community.”

“Here at Fuller that series is held up quite highly by faculty members,” noted Robeck, and the series has helped pastors and church leaders to “recognize the level of his scholarship, and identify with the message he brings...they see him as providing really good comment on the New Testament.”

Robeck noted his personal regard, as a Christian historian, for Pope Benedict's reflections on the Fathers of the Church. He also said the Pope's commitment to the new evangelization is “very important,” and that “Benedict has been an important figure in helping all of our churches to rethink the question of evangelism.”

Pope Benedict's efforts to reach out to various communities, particularly the Russian Orthodox and the Society of St. Pius X, has given Robeck “a great deal of hope that Benedict's concern about unity, is a real concern.”

Robeck also noted that “Dominus Iesus,” a declaration written in 2000 by Pope Benedict when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “really spoke to the concerns of evangelicals and Pentecostals by calling once again for a conformity to the 'middle,' with his reiteration of Jesus Christ as the only way, the truth and the life.”

“Dominus Iesus,” which emphasize the salvific universality of Christ and the Church, “was a very important document...very much appreciated by evangelicals and Pentecostals,” Robeck said.

Pope Benedict's efforts at ecumenism were also praised by a Russian Orthodox bishop, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who said his pontificate has seen a “positive dynamic” in Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations.

“He is a prominent theologian, who is well versed in the tradition of the Orthodox Church while having the sensitivity that makes it possible for him to build relations with Orthodox Church on (a) due level,” the Metropolitan said Feb. 11.

He praised the Pope's staunch opposition to the “dictatorship of relativism” and said that his “traditionalism and conservatism...are of credit for millions of Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic, who seek to preserve traditional Christian spiritual and moral values.”

In 2009, Pope Benedict achieved a landmark in ecumenism and reconciliation with his apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus.” This document allowed Anglican converts to join the Catholic Church in groups and preserve elements of their spiritual and liturgical heritage.

That initiative, as well as others, led Father John Zuhlsdorf, who writes an influential blog, to start calling  Benedict “the Pope of Christian Unity” in Oct., 2009.

Pope Benedict's efforts for Christian unity have not been solely outside the Catholic Church, but within it as well.

In 2007 he wrote a motu proprio “Summorum pontificum” which gave all priests the right to say the Mass as it was in 1962, prior to the Second Vatican Council. It recognized that Vatican II did not abrogate the previous liturgy, and helped to harmonize the Church with her past.

The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, which is in full communion with the Pope and which celebrates the Roman rite as it was in 1962, said Pope Benedict, “a tireless apostle of Church unity....ever mindful of the restoration of the sacred, reconciled the Roman Church with its two-thousand year liturgical patrimony.”

Pope Benedict also launched a series of doctrinal discussions between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X, a priestly fraternity founded in 1970 to form priests in response to supposed errors that crept into the Church following Vatican II. The discussions are currently at a stalemate, and the Vatican awaits a definitive response from the Society.

The Society said Feb. 11 that it “expresses its gratitude to (Pope Benedict) for the strength and the constancy that he has shown toward it in such difficult circumstances, and assures him of its prayers for the time that he wishes to devote from now on to recollection.”

“Following its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of Saint Pius X reaffirms its attachment to eternal Rome...and to the See of Peter.”

“It prays that, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the cardinals of the next conclave may elect the pope who, according to the will of God, will work for the restoration of all things in Christ.”

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Wales and England celebrate patron St. David on March 1

Denver, Colo., Feb 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Among Welsh Catholics, as well as those in England, March 1 is the liturgical celebration of Saint David of Wales.

St. David is the patron of the Welsh people, remembered as a missionary bishop and the founder of many monasteries during the sixth century.

David was a popular namesake for churches in Wales prior to the Anglican schism, and his feast day is still an important religious and civic observance.

Although Pope Benedict XVI did not visit Wales during his 2010 trip to the U.K., he blessed a mosaic icon of its patron, and delivered remarks praising St. David as “one of the great saints of the sixth century, that golden age of saints and missionaries in these isles, and...thus a founder of the Christian culture which lies at the root of modern Europe.”

In his comments, Pope Benedict recalled the saint's dying words to his monastic brethren: “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things.” He urged that St. David's message, “in all its simplicity and richness, continue to resound in Wales today, drawing the hearts of its people to renewed love for Christ and his Church.”

From a purely historical standpoint, little is known of David’s life, with the earliest biography dating from centuries after his time. As with some other saints of sixth-century Wales, even the chronology of his life is not easy to ascertain.

David’s conception is said to have occurred as a result of rape – a detail that seems unlikely to have been invented by later biographers, though it cannot (like almost all of the traditions surrounding his life) be established with certainty. His mother Saint Nonna, or Nonnita, has her traditional feast day on March 3.

David appears to have been the cousin of his contemporary Saint Teilo, another Welsh bishop and monk. He is described as a pupil of the monastic educator Saint Paulinus, who was one of St. Teilo’s teachers as well. There are doubts, however, about the story which holds that David and Teilo traveled to Jerusalem and were ordained together as bishops.

It is clear that David served as the Bishop of Menevia, an important port city linking Wales and Ireland in his time. His leading role in two local councils of the Church is also a matter of record.

Twelve monasteries have their founding ascribed to David, who developed a reputation for strict asceticism. His monks modeled their lives on the earliest desert hermits – combining hard manual labor, silence, long hours of prayer, and a diet that completely excluded meat and alcohol.

One tradition places his death in the year 601, but other writers believe he died in the 540s. David may well have survived to an advanced age, but evidence is lacking for the claim (made by his 11th-century biographer) that he lived to the age of 147. Pope Callistus II canonized St. David of Wales in 1120.

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Pope Benedict says he is not 'abandoning the Church'

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Around 120,000 pilgrims heard Pope Benedict XVI deliver his last Angelus address, in which he said that “the Lord called me to ‘climb the mountain,’ to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation,” a change that does not mean he is “abandoning the Church.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope said as he dwelt on the Sunday Gospel on the Transfiguration, “the Word of God feels particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord called me to ‘climb the mountain,’ to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation.”

“But this does not mean abandoning the Church,” he qualified, “indeed, if God asks me this it is just so that I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so far, but in a way more suited to my age and for me.”

The Pope will be both physically and spiritually “climbing the mountain,” since the Mater Ecclesiae monastery where he will retire sits on the highest point in Vatican City with a view of the back of St. Peter’s Basilica and then the rest of Rome.

When he mentioned how the Gospel felt directed at him, the crowd reacted with applause that echoed through an overflowing St. Peter’s Square.

In his reflections on the Transfiguration in Luke’s Gospel, Pope Benedict described the encounter as “a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John, the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master.”

“The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection, offers his disciples an anticipation of his glory,” he noted.

The Pope then explained the significance of Peter’s comment. “The intervention of Peter: ‘Master, it is good for us to be here,’ represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience.”

Pope Benedict underscored that meditating on this passage yields “a very important teaching.”

“First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life,” he said.

He also added a second point that was particularly fitting for his future life of prayer.

“In addition, prayer is not to isolate themselves from the world and its contradictions, as on Tabor wanted to be Peter, but the prayer back to the path, to the action. ‘The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists of a continuous climb up the mountain to meet God, before falling back, bringing the love and the power derived from it, in order to serve our brothers and sisters with the same love of God.’”

Benedict XVI finished his pre-Angelus remarks by invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who “always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.”

As he offered greetings in various languages to the throng of pilgrims, each group showed their support by applauding Pope Benedict, with the loudest being the Italians.

A translation of the Pope’s full remarks follows.

 

Dear brothers and sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John, the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).


The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new "exodus" (9:31), not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here" (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labors and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? "(Sermon 78.3).
 

We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).
 

Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain," to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.
 

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer that I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

 

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Pope will change rule for conclave date tomorrow

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI will issue a motu proprio on Feb. 25, clearing the way for the College of Cardinals to choose a date in early March to begin the conclave for electing his successor.

According to sources at the Vatican, Pope Benedict plans to publish a declaration on Monday that will enable the cardinals to select a date that is earlier than the 15-day waiting period currently required by Church law.

The director of the Holy See press office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed last week that the Pope was studying the possibility of issuing a motu proprio – a papal document that changes Church law – to address some issues that have been raised by the pontiff resigning instead of dying.

The primary item that will be addressed is the timing of the conclave. John Paul II’s “Universi Dominici Gregis” established that it should not be sooner than 15 days after the death of the Pope, but the case of an abdication with advanced notice was not foreseen. There are also housekeeping items such as securing the Pope’s belongings and other points of procedure.

Most of the cardinals who do not live in Rome will begin arriving in the Eternal City on Monday, three days before Pope Benedict will officially resign on Feb. 28.

The Casa Santa Marta, where the cardinals will stay during the conclave, will open its doors on March 1 to the members of the Sacred College.

Before the conclave begins, the cardinals will hold a series of General Congregations, at which they will take up any administrative items, discuss the needs of the Church and talk about who can best respond to those needs as the next Pope.

During the conclave, the 116 cardinals who are under 80 years-old and are able to make the trip will gather behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel and determine who the Church’s next Pope will be.

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Conclave expected between March 9 and 11

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The conclave to choose the next Pope will likely begin between March 9th and 11th.

A Vatican official speaking on background to CNA said Feb. 24 that the dates being discussed for the start of the conclave to elect Benedict XVI’s successor are somewhere between March 9th and 11th.

The possibility of foregoing the normal 15-day waiting period for opening a conclave has been raised by Pope Benedict announcing that he will resign on Feb. 28, giving everyone 17 days advanced notice of his intention.

The cardinals are not able to choose a date earlier than March 15 as the rules currently stand, but Pope Benedict will publish a declaration tomorrow clearing the way for an accelerated timeline.

Before the conclave begins, the cardinals will hold a series of General Congregations, at which they will take up any administrative items, discuss the needs of the Church and talk about who can best respond to those needs as the next Pope.

During the conclave, the 117 cardinals who are under 80 years-old will gather behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel and determine who the Church’s next Pope will be.

If a new Pope is elected, the faithful waiting in St. Peter’s Square will see white smoke coming from the chapel’s chimney, if a vote is inconclusive the smoke will be black.

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November 26, 2014

Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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