Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sealed off the papal apartments, marking the beginning of the sede vacante, the period when there is no Pope.
The head of the Apostolic Chamber, an office that only operates during the time of sede vacante and takes care of papal properties, closed and sealed the Vatican’s papal apartment doors at 8:00 p.m. on Feb. 28.
The Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is the leader of the group and he is known as the chamberlain or camerlengo.
He serves as the acting head of state until a Pope is elected and is also the administrator of the Holy See’s properties and revenues.
Cardinal Bertone locked the apartment’s front entrance after it was sealed with tape, a red ribbon was tied around the door handles and it was sealed with red wax and a Vatican stamp.
A seal was also placed on the papal apartment’s elevator that the Pope uses to go down to the third floor to deliver his Angelus remarks.
The Secretary of State’s second in command, Archbishop Giovanni A. Becciu, sent a letter at 8:00 p.m. to every Vatican embassy telling them to address all diplomatic affairs to himself and to the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
At the same time, Swiss guards left their stations outside the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, since Benedict XVI is no longer Pope.
On March 1 at 12:30 p.m., Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, the vice chamberlain, also sealed the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, since it is the official seat of the Bishop of Rome.
Cardinal Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will be heading the cardinals’ general meetings up until the actual conclave takes place. The first of those gatherings will take place at 9:30 a.m. on March 4 in the Bishops’ Synod Hall.
This means Cardinal Bertone is in charge of the Vatican’s administrative work, while Cardinal Sodano is in charge of spiritually leading the cardinals in preparing for the upcoming election.