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Pope's Resignation

At 8 p.m. (Rome time) on February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI’s reign as Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church came to an end. He had bid farewell to a large crowd gathered at the Vatican City a few hours earlier to travel to Castel Gandolfo, where he will live for about two months before moving to a monastery inside the Vatican City. Greeted by several hundred more of the faithful upon his arrival, the Pope offered his final apostolic blessing and departed the Castel Gandolfo balcony saying, “Thank you and good night. Thanks to all of you.”

A New Name, A New Look

According to a Catholic News Agency report, a couple of days before his retirement, the Holy See press office revealed that Benedict XVI would retain his papal name, but he would have three new titles: Pope Emeritus, His Holiness, and Roman Pontiff Emeritus.

On the same day, it was announced that upon retirement he will wear a simple white cassock and brown shoes given to him in Leon, Mexico. However, the mozzetta (the short cape that had covered his shoulders) and the papal red shoes will be gone.

In addition, he will no longer wear the “ring of the fisherman” that is proper to the papacy. Both the ring and papal seal will be broken at a time designated by the College of Cardinals and its chamberlain (camerlengo) in accordance with sede vacante (vacant chair) norms. The Pope Emeritus will wear the episcopal ring from his time as Cardinal Ratzinger.


The Swiss Guard

The Pontifical Swiss Guard has served the papacy since the 16th century. Perhaps, their most significant moment came on May 6, 1527, when 147 of the 189 Guards died fighting the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape the city.

The Swiss Guards officially ended their ceremonial protection of Pope Benedict XVI the moment his resignation became effective. They placed their halberds on the inner walls of Castel Gandolfo as there is now no pope to protect. They then stood at the gates until 8 p.m. on February 28th before departing their stations. This is not to say the Pope Emeritus will be without security. He will continue to enjoy the protection of Vatican police in retirement.


The Last Moments of his Papacy in his own words

“At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.”

“[These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink.”

“Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.”

“Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!”

  • Excerpts from his final Wednesday Audience on February 27 2013.

“Among you, between the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom I already pledge my unconditional respect and obedience.”

  • Surprise address to the 144 cardinals gathered to bid him farewell in Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at 11 a.m. on February 28, 2013.

“I’m simply a pilgrim that is starting the last stage of his pilgrimage on Earth, but I would still like with my heart, with my love, with my prayer, with my reflection, with all my inner strength to work for the common good of the Church and of humanity, and I feel very supported by your sympathy. Let’s go ahead together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world.”

  • Words before his final apostolic blessing as Pope at Castel Gandolfo on February 28, 2013.


State of the Church: Sede Vacante

During this period between papacies, the Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, issued by Blessed John Paul II in 1996 governs operation of the Holy See. It charges the College of Cardinals, along with a few Vatican officials, with the principal duties of governing, albeit in a limited way. All the heads of the Roman Curia, the administrative arm of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church, automatically resign their offices during sede vacante.

The only exceptions to the above are the Cardinal Camerlengo, who is charged with managing the property of the Holy See, and the Major Penitentiary, who continues to exercise his normal role regarding issues of mercy especially relating to the forgiveness of sins. Overseas diplomacy and pastoral work will also continue during sede vacante through the efforts of papal legates and both the Vicar General of Rome and the Vicar General for the Vatican City respectively.

Other notable changes that will occur during this period include the use of special postage stamps by the Vatican City and the use of a different coat of arms for the Holy See. In terms of the coat of arms, the papal tiara over the keys will be replaced with the umbraculum, or ombrellino (“little umbrella”). This symbolizes the lack of a pope and also the governance of the Camerlengo over the temporalities of the Holy See. The Camerlengo also adds this symbol to his own coat of arms, which he will remove once a pope is elected.


What’s Next?

Presumably, on Friday, March 1, 2013, the first official day of the sede vacante, the College of Cardinals' dean will formally invite cardinals to Rome to start their post-pope meetings. Most or all already in the city, from the former pope's last meeting with them. The general congregations, a series of daily meetings that are a mix church business as well as chances to get to know and learn about each other, are expected to start Monday, March 4th. The cardinals will then begin in earnest the process for selecting the next pope. Typically, conclaves are supposed to happen at least 15 days and no more than 20 days after the sede vacante begins, but Benedict XVI changed the rules in the last days of his papacy to allow an earlier start.


Pope Benedict bids farewell

In farewell to cardinals, Pope Benedict pledges obedience to next pope

Pope delivers personal, emotional farewell address at audience

When will the conclave begin?

Conclave start date might not be known until after March 4


Prayer for the papal transition

Lord, send forth your Holy Spirit and continue to guide and inspire our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI during these final days of his papacy. Be with the College of Cardinals for the next conclave and fill them with your grace. We pray this through Christ our Lord.


Who is Pope Benedict XVI? Pastor, Scholar, Pontiff

Before he became pope, he was well-known as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an office that was formerly called the Inquisition. He also is, according to those who know him best, a humble and gentle man, an accomplished pianist who loves Mozart and a pastor whose greatest gift is his ability to listen.

Joseph Ratzinger was born in Marktl am Inn, Germany in 1927. He celebrated his 78th birthday on Apr. 16, two days before he was elected to the papacy. He is now 85 years old. The son of a cook and a policeman, he felt his life was immersed in the paschal mystery from his birth on Holy Saturday and his baptism the next day in the newly blessed Easter waters.

During the turbulent years of World War II, the Ratzinger family moved into successively smaller communities in an attempt to avoid involvement with the Nazi party. They were not completely successful; young Joseph was drafted into the German army for a while, but deserted near the war’s end and spent time in an American prisoner-of-war camp.

He studied philosophy and theology; was ordained, along with his brother Georg, in 1951; and earned a doctorate in theology in 1953. For years, he was a professor of theology at various universities in Germany. He quickly became renowned for the depth and breadth of his intellect and, in 1962, was selected by Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne to be his consultor during the Second Vatican Council. He published numerous essays, sermons and reflections over the years, cementing his scholarly reputation.

In March 1977, Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of Munich and Freising; he was elevated to the College of Cardinals in June of the same year.

Perhaps his most prominent position prior to the papacy has been that of prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is in this role that Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for defending the orthodoxy of Church teachings.

Despite his difficult role as the enforcer of Church doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI is known to colleagues, neighbors and friends as a gentle, pastoral man with a dry sense of humor. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he lived quietly in an apartment in Rome, walking to work every day and chatting with those he passed in the streets. He is respected for his ability to listen intently and thoughtfully, even to those with whom he disagrees.

As the pope, Benedict XVI travelled extensively and wrote extensively. He authored a trilogy of books on the life of Jesus Christ.

His reign (Apr. 19, 2005 – Feb. 28, 2013) was marked by a call both to restore traditional Catholic practice and worship in order to correct erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council and to return to fundamental Christian values in order to counter growing secularization around the globe. He also often identified relativism with its denial of objective moral truth as the central problem of the 21st century.

These concerns informed many of his major initiatives as pope. He relaxed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass; he reached out to the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist, schismatic group, in hopes of accomplishing their return to communion with the Holy See; and he issued an invitation to Anglicans disillusioned with recent decisions by the Anglican Church to join the Roman Catholic Church.

In addition, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the New Evangelization by establishing the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in 2010. He followed this by declaring a Year of Faith, which continues thru Nov. 24, 2013.

After retirement, Pope Benedict will spend some time at Castel Gandolfo while a cloistered residence in the Vatican is renovated. He will then move into the cloister, and spend his time in prayer and contemplation.

As the 265th leader of the Catholic Church, Joseph Ratzinger took the name of Benedict. It is the name of the founder of the Benedictine Order, a saint known for his intellectual prowess and for saving Western civilization. St. Benedict is the patron of Europe, a continent Pope Benedict broods over as its adherence to Christianity shrinks. He may have chosen this name as a sign of his desire to strengthen and save the Church in Europe.

And the name Benedict means, “blessing.” His papacy has been a blessing for the Church.

Elizabeth Solsburg, with Doug Culp


Statement of Bishop Earl Boyea, Diocese of Lansing

Pope Benedict has been and remains a very good father to the Catholic communion throughout the world.  He has been a wonderful teacher, shepherd and man of prayer. The clearest sign of his care for the Church is this most recent action: his decision to resign the papacy.  His sense that he can no longer be the effective missionary and evangelist has led him, in deep love, to hand this great task given him by Jesus Christ to another.  On this day of Our Lady of Lourdes when we are asked to be very mindful of the sick, we offer prayers for our Holy Father’s good health and many years.  We also pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that God’s will may be done in the choice of Benedict’s successor.


Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.

Though 78 when he was elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened – Jews, Muslims and Christians in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world’s youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany and Spain.

He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington, D.C. and New York in 2008. As a favored statesman, he greeted notables at the White House. As a spiritual leader, he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As a pastor feeling pain in a stirring, private meeting at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, he brought a listening heart to victims of sexual abuse by clerics.

Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.

He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the Church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.

He spoke for the world’s poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals. He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God’s creation in nature.

Those who met him, heard him speak and read his clear, profound writings found themselves moved and changed. In all he said and did, he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world.


Pope Benedict XVI – a timeline

April 19, 2005: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on.

April 24, 2005: Papal Inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square, during which he was invested with the pallium and the Ring of the Fisherman.

May 7: He took possession of his Cathedral Church, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVIth has undertaken 24 apostolic journeys abroad.

August 2005: Travelled to Cologne, Germany for the 20th World Youth Day. Subsequently, he has taken 23 additional apostolic journeys, the most recent to Lebanon in September 2012. He has travelled to countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Australia, the Middle East, to the USA and has been welcomed as a guest at the United Nations in New York.He also has undertaken 30 apostolic visits within Italy.

Dec. 25, 2005: First encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, released.

Nov. 2, 2007: Second encyclical, Spe Salvi released.

June 29, 2009: Third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate released.

Feb.11, 2013: Announced he will retire from the papacy, the first pope to do so since Gregory XII,1415.


Books by Pope Benedict

Prior to becoming the pope, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger authored numerous scholarly texts, including Principles of Christian Morality, Values in a Time of Upheaval, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures and The Dialectics of Secularization.

As Pope Benedict, he completed his “Jesus of Nazareth” trilogy on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in November 2012.

Pope Benedict’s  XVI post-synodal Apostolic Exhortations:

February 2007: Sacramentum Caritatis, an exhortation on the Eucharist as the source and summit on the Church’s life and mission.

September 2010: Verbum Domini, an exhortation on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

November 2011: Africae Munus on the Church in Africa in service to reconciliation, justice and peace.

September 2012: Ecclesia in Medio Oriente on the Church in the Middle East: communion and witness.


The papacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign the papal office on February 28.

Full text of Pope's declaration

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is. Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013



What is next for the Church?

The Vatican has announced that a conclave will be called, perhaps as early as Holy Week.

What is a conclave: From a Latin word meaning “with key,” it normally takes place 15-20 days after the pope’s death. The College of Cardinals sets the exact date. By law, the conclave begins in the Sistine Chapel. The cardinals will celebrate the Votive Mass and begin the election process

Who participates: Cardinals who are younger than 80 have the right to vote for the next pope. They are attended by cooks, housekeepers and medical personnel. Everyone involved must swear an oath of secrecy.

What happens: The cardinals are locked in, to prevent any outside influence on their voting. Election takes place by secret ballot. Blank ballots are prepared and distributed. The electors write the name of the candidate on the lower half and fold it in two.

  • Each of the active cardinals – under 80 years of age – walks to an altar in order of seniority and pledges to perform his duty with integrity.
  • Each cardinal then places a folded ballot containing his choice onto a small disc made of precious metal and drops it inside a chalice.
  • The ballots are read by three scrutineers or tellers, who are selected by lot. As the names on the ballots are called out, one of the scrutineers threads the ballots together. If a cardinal receives two-thirds of the votes, he is the new pontiff.
  • If there is no winner, another vote is taken.

What is the smoke: The threaded ballots are burned with chemicals to turn the smoke white if there is an election and black if there is not.

What if they can’t decide: If there is no election after 13 days, the cardinals may suspend voting for a day in order to pray and discuss. This can occur multiple times.

Who can be elected: Although the next pope will almost certainly be a member of the College of Cardinals, any man who is baptized and ordained as a priest and bishop could be elected. He does not need to be present for election to occur.


Who are the eligible U.S. electors?

The following U.S. cardinals are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote for the next pope:

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, emeritus

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, emeritus

Cardinal William Levada, Roman Curia, emeritus

Cardinal Francis George, Archdiocese of Chicago

Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Roman Curia

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archdiocese of Boston

Cardinal Raymond Burke, Roman Curia

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

Cardinal James Harvey, Roman Curia

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archdiocese of New York


Pope Benedict XVI resignation

On Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation from the papacy effective at 8 p.m. (Vatican time) on Feb. 28, 2013. In his announcement, the pontiff cited “advanced age” and deterioration in strength of both mind and body as the reason for his decision. It marks the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years.


The law

The Code of Canon Law addresses papal resignation in Canon 332 paragraph 2:

“Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.”


The pope in his own words

“The one who holds the office of the Petrine ministry must be aware that he is a frail and weak human being – just as his own powers are frail and weak – constantly in need of purification and conversion.”

“The pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to the obedience of God’s word.”

– May 7, 2005, Basilica of St. John Lateran, on occasion of his taking possession as Bishop of Rome


Papal resignations: A historical perspective

While the history of papal abdication is sketchy, at best with various conflicting accounts, all agree that it is rare. No definitive example of a pope resigning can be cited prior to 1009 when Pope John XVIII is said to have died as a monk in Rome in 1009. However, even with this case, it is unclear whether the pope actually resigned.

The first clear case of a pope voluntarily vacating the Chair of Peter occurred in 1045 when the ill-reputed Pope Benedict IX sold his office to John Gratian in order to, as some say, be free to marry. However, he soon regretted his decision and sought to depose Gratian, who had taken the name Pope Gregory VI. King Henry III intervened in the conflict and deposed both men, along with an antipope (Sylvester III) who Benedict had successfully expelled in 1044 and named a new pope, Clement II. Undeterred, Benedict again seized the Chair of Peter in 1047 before being driven from it in 1048.

Then in 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned after only 5 months (July 5 – Dec. 13) as pope. As he was a hermit, his election came as a surprise. However, he quickly fell under the influence of King Charles of Naples, which when coupled by his inability to deny any request made to him, threw the Curia into disorder. Concerned about the effects of his decisions and with his own soul, due to his lack of time for exercises of piety, Celestine V became the first to actually raise the question of whether a pope could resign. The canonist charged with determining the validity of such a step agreed that it was possible. Soon after, Celestine V acted on the new determination and resigned.

Finally and most recently, Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 in an attempt to end the 40-year period known as the Western Schism, during which three people (Gregory XII, Antipope Benedict XIII and Antipope John XXIII) all claimed the Chair of Peter.


The new evangelization

Pope Benedicts XVI viewed the New Evangelization as critical to combating the “dictatorship of relativism.” Drawing from Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (1974) and the teaching of Blessed Pope John Paul II, he called the Church to re-propose the Gospel to regions “still awaiting a first evangelization” and to regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but that have experienced a “serious crisis” of faith due to secularization.

This work was to be new, not in content, but in ardor and methods. For example, the pope was the second pope on Facebook and became the first pope ever on Twitter (@Pontifex).


The year of faith

On Oct. 11, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared in an Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei (the “door of faith”), that a “Year of Faith” would begin on Oct.11, 2012 and conclude on Nov. 24, 2013 (Solemnity of Christ the King).

The start of the Year of Faith marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is hoped that the year will be a time for Catholics to study and reflect on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism for the purpose of deepening their faith.

A great place to start for Catholics during the Year of Faith is the Evangelization and Catechesis section of the USCCB website ( Catholics will find catechetical resources, prayers and other resources that can be viewed and downloaded for free. However, most importantly, the U.S. bishops encourage Catholics to pray daily, study Scripture and celebrate weekly Sunday Mass.


By the numbers

2nd      Pope in history, after Blessed Pope John Paul II, to enter a synagogue

2          New doctors of the Church named

3          Encyclicals published

85        Age of the pope at resignation

815      New saints that were to be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI

1.5       Million followers on Twitter at time of resignation announcement


What lies ahead?

The process of electing a new pope will begin after the Holy Father officially ends his papal reign. The cardinals must meet in conclave no earlier than 15 days and no later than 20 days after the Chair of Peter is vacated. The purpose of this provision is to allow time for cardinal electors to make the journey to the Vatican. The cardinals will remain in conclave until a new pope is elected.

As for Pope Benedict XVI, the spokesman for the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, has indicated that the pope “will move to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo ... When renovation work of the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection.”

In terms of his name, official title and status, Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger, OFM, a professor of canon law at Rome’s Pontifical University Antonianum, told Vatican Radio in an interview dated Feb. 11, 2013, “We lack a law, so far, on the status of a former pope, of someone who resigned the papacy.” He continued, “It is possible either Benedict XVI in the next few days or his successor will make such a law, because many questions must be asked: What is the proper title by which to address a former pope? What are his immunities and prerogatives? There is a question of his international standing. All of this has to be settled ... There was never any need to deal with it.”

This, in effect, means all we really know is the pope will remain a bishop until his death as he was ordained such through the sacrament of holy orders. Whether or not he will remain a cardinal or whether his title will be “Bishop of Rome, emeritus” as Vatican Senior Communications Adviser Greg Burke suggested, in an Associated Press story by Nicole Winfield dated Feb. 12, 2013, will be determined by his successor.


The election process at a glance

  • By law, the conclave begins in the Sistine Chapel. The cardinals will celebrate the Votive Mass and begin the election process.
  • The cardinals draw lots to select three members to collect ballots from the infirm, three "tellers" to count the votes and three others to review the results.
  • Blank ballots are prepared and distributed. The electors write the name of the candidate on the lower half and fold it in two.
  • Each of the active cardinals -- under 80 years of age -- walks to an altar in order of seniority and pledges to perform his duty with integrity.
  • Each cardinal then places a folded ballot containing his choice onto a small disc made of precious metal and drops it inside a chalice.
  • If a cardinal receives two-thirds plus one of the votes, he is the new pontiff.
  • If there is no winner, another vote is taken.
  • After the votes are counted each time, the ballots are burned. Black smoke indicates there has been no winner. White smoke indicates there is a new pope.

For a more detailed treatment of the process, see Universi Dominici Gregis, Apostolic Constitution of Pope John Paul II on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff (Feb. 22, 1996).


Issues the next pope will face

The next pontiff will face a plethora of challenges. Attacks on the sanctity of life, marriage, family life and religious liberty are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some others:

  • Ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal
  • Abortion
  • Same sex marriage
  • Human trafficking
  • Rise of radical Islam
  • Pervasiveness of apathy toward religion/practical atheism
  • Persecution of Catholics and other Christians throughout the world
  • Assaults on freedom of conscience
  • Assaults on religious liberty
  • Ongoing Vatican Bank scandal
  • Disunity among Christians
  • Growing economic disparity global climate and technological changes