1996 UNIVERSI DOMINICI GREGIS
POPE JOHN PAUL II
It is the above official document that is nothing less than a Constitution from the Apostolic See itself and issued in 1996 by no less than the now Blessed Pope John Paul II, that provides the step-by-step process of the election of a new Pope for the Universal Church. The document acquires special significance and relevance, taking into account the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI effective 28 February 2013. It is interesting to take note of the following particulars – among so many other provisions until a new Pope is elected, accepts the election and thereafter assumes the Papal Office:
a. General Congregations: These are calendared meetings of the Cardinals – below 80 years old – summoned to Rome in immediate preparation for the election of a new Pope. At their very first meeting, the Cardinals take a solemn oath to carefully observe strict confidence about everything that has bearing on the actual particulars of the papal election process.
b. St. Martha’s House: This is the place within the Vatican City that provides suitable lodging for the Cardinals who are in Rome precisely to elect the Pope – considering that the papal election can take several days to finish. The building has about 130 rooms which are clearly more than enough to accommodate the estimated 117 Cardinal electors to this date.
c. Sistine Chapel: This is where the papal election actually takes place after the Cardinal electors become acquainted with the regulatory norms and practices in the holding of a papal election. In other words, this is the exact pace where the “ Conclave” – put under lock and key – is held from beginning to end. The Chapel is approximately 360 meters away from St. Martha’s House.
d. Cardinal Electors: Every Cardinal elector is automatically a candidate for election to the Papacy. In other words, the one ultimately elected as the Pope is one of the electors themselves. But then, it is not only a betrayal of trust as provided by the election norms but also a categorically censurable act for any Cardinal who even but attempts to have himself elected as Pope.
e. Two-thirds Majority Plus One: Each of the Cardinal Electors cast their votes twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon – until the said required absolute majority is reached. Otherwise, the elections are continuously held until the propitious event is hailed by the joyful shout of “Habemus Papam!” – “We have a Pope!” The whole world eventually comes to know the signal phenomenon. As already well known, after each election, the ballots filled up by all the Cardinals are burned. The smoke seen is black (“No Pope Yet Elected!”) or white (“Pope already elected!).