Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
Responsibilities of the Sacred Conclave
When the Dean of the College of Cardinals publicly announces the death of the Pope, all the cardinals throughout the world are convoked to a solemn conclave, for the election of a new Supreme Pontiff. The conclave is held within fifteen to eighteen days after the death of the Holy Father.
If all the cardinals are present on the fifteenth day after the death of the Pope, then the conclave begins. If not all the cardinals are present, the conclave is postponed until the eighteenth day. Then the cardinals, after celebrating Holy Mass, gather in the Sistine Chapel, for the elections. And until they have made a choice, they remain in seclusion within a part of the Vatican, reserved for them.
Any male Catholic of whatever country or race, even a layman, may be elected Pope. Should a layman be chosen, he would have to be ordained priest and consecrated bishop, before he may assume the duties of his office. To be validly the Supreme Pontiff, the elected one is required to accept the office. The Pope is elected for life; however, if he wishes, he may resign, and a new Pope would then be elected.
The voting by the cardinals is done on specially-printed ballots. A two-thirds majority plus one is required to elect. Two ballots are taken every morning and evening until a selection is made. As long as no choice is made, the ballots are burned with damp straw; the heavy black smoke coming out from the chimney is a sign to the public usually assembled in the plaza outside that no decision has been reached. But when a candidate receives a two-thirds majority plus one, then he is elected, and the ballots are burned without damp straw. Light smoke issuing from the chimney notifies the eager public that they have a new Holy Father for white smoke curls up and the people in St. Peter's begin rejoicing.
Only cardinals are eligible to vote and only those who have not yet reached the age of eighty may participate. Once a prelate becomes 80 years-old he can no longer take an active role in the College of Cardinals and is therefore an honorary member with no voting privileges. During this last century there have been eight conclaves held beginning with Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto chosen on August 6, 1903 to succeed Pope Leo XIII whose pontificate lasted from 1878 to 1903. Sarto became Pope Pius X and later Saint Pius X. He was followed by Cardinal Francis Della Chiesa who became Pope Benedict XV on September 6, 1914. His successor was Cardinal Achille Ratti who chose the name Pope Pius XI on February 11, 1929. With his death ten years later Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, born in the shadows of the Vatican took the name Pope Pius XII. After a pontificate of nineteen years, Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncali was the surprise choice of the Sacred Conclave on October 28, 1959. He, of course, took the name John XXIII, the first John since 1334. After four years as Sovereign Pontiff, he died on June 3, 1963 during the historic Second Vatican Council he had convened. The College of Cardinals gathered in Rome and chose the Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Giovanni Montini as the 262nd successor of Peter who, on June 21, 1963 took the name Pope Paul VI, the first Paul since 1621. His pontificate lasted until August 6, 1978 when once again the Sacred Conclave convened. They chose the man called the "Smiling Pope" - 66 year-old Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Albino Luciani who, in honor of his two predecessors selected Pope John Paul I. But his pontificate was very short lived, lasting only 33 days before he mysteriously died on September 28, 1978. Within a two month period, the College of Cardinals huddled in the Sistine Chapel again and, in an unprecedented move elected the first non-Italian Pope since Pope Hadrian VI in 1523. He was, of course, Polish prelate Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who honored his predecessor on October 16, 1978 by choosing Pope John Paul II.
With all elections, the most important Personage is not any individual cardinal but the Holy Spirit Whose inspiration they rely on to choose the appropriate successor of Peter who will be the spiritual leader for over a billion Roman Catholics and the most trusted of world leaders.
Thursday: the Roman Curia part one