Last week we learned that The Sistine Chapel was closed to the public so that preparations for the election of a new pope could begin at the Vatican. Over the weekend, it was announced that TODAY was the day that the Papal Conclave would begin deliberations to select the next pope. In just a few hours, the Catholic cardinals of the world will be locked inside the Santa Marta residence until they can select the next pope. Some people believe that the next pope could be decided by the weekend so, very soon, all eyes will be on the smoke signals coming from the Papal Conclave for news of their progress (colored smoke means no pope has been chosen, white smoke means we have a winner). Whether or not you have a vested interest in the selection of the next pope you have to admit that something like this is extremely newsworthy and interesting.
The work to choose a successor to retired Benedict XVI begins in earnest Tuesday, as the cardinals charged with the task prepare to be locked away in a secret election, or conclave, in Vatican City. One of their number will almost certainly emerge from the process as the new spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Just a few hours after moving into Santa Marta, their residence at the Vatican for the duration of the process, the 115 cardinals who will choose the new pope took part in a morning Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. They processed into St. Peter’s, clad in scarlet robes, for a service in which they prayed for guidance in making a choice that could be crucial to the future direction of a church rocked by scandal in recent years. Members of the public waited in long lines Tuesday morning to join the Mass, which was open to all. As the service began, the morning’s brilliant sunshine came to an abrupt end, with the skies letting loose thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour. Applause echoed round St. Peter’s as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, offered thanks for the “brilliant pontificate” of Benedict XVI, whose shock resignation precipitated the selection of a new pope. Sodano’s homily focused on a message of love and unity, calling on all to cooperate with the new pontiff in the service of the church. “My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart,” he concluded. In the afternoon, the 115 cardinal-electors — those younger than 80 who are eligible to vote — will go to the Pauline Chapel for further prayers. They will then walk to the Sistine Chapel, chanting prayers as they go, to begin the secret election called the conclave. The doors will be locked behind them, and after that the only clue the world will have of what is happening inside will be periodic puffs of smoke from a copper chimney installed in the chapel over the weekend. Black smoke, no pope. White smoke, success.
Honestly, as a student of History, I cannot help but be intrigued by all of this ceremony. It’s really interesting to me that this special selection process has been happening for centuries and here we are again, at the election of a new pope. I honestly have no idea who the candidates are but as I understand it, there is a possibility that the world will get the first African pope. I think that would be awesome. I also understand that Cardinal Timothy Dolan from NYC is in the running as well. If YOU would like to know the exact moment when the Papal Conclave selects the next pope, you can sign up to be alerted at PopeAlarm.com I guess the time is now to pray that the next pope elected into office will work toward a world of INCLUSION rather than exclusion.