Choosing a New Pope

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There is much interest in knowing how a new pope is elected following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  The Pope is considered the bishop of Rome and the human leader of the whole Catholic Church.  The position itself represents the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle while the body of bishops is taken to represent the apostles.

The word pope is derived from a Greek word which means Father.  The Pope has the difficult task of shepherding the Catholic flock all over the world.  He is expected to occupy the position until his death.

During the early times, the Pope was chosen by senior clergymen who were residing in Rome or near it.  The electorate was eventually restricted to the Cardinals which was further qualified into cardinals below 80 years old. In regular circumstances where the election is being done due to the death of the Pope, the 120 cardinal electors are required to meet within 10 days.  The Camerlengo or the Cardinal Chamberlain of the Roman Catholic Church temporarily takes over until the new Pope has been elected.

The electors are called to a sequestered meeting called the conclave where they will stay until a Pope has been elected.  Black smoke signifies that they have not been successful yet in electing the new Pope while white smoke signifies success in choosing the successor.  Voting is done by secret ballot and all ballots are burned after each voting.  The Pope’s office is called the papacy while his ecclesiastical jurisdiction is referred to as the Holy See.

Image: thejournal.ie

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