By Fr. Jason Cargo
Special to the Corsicana Daily Sun
We have no Pope. Officially, as of Thursday, Feb. 28, the Church entered a period called, “Sede Vacante,” which means “the vacant chair.”
As a Catholic, this is always a strange period of time. It’s like the boat is on cruise control until a new captain takes the helm.
How different is this year from previous elections? Normally, the Church mourns for nine straight days after the death of a Pope. I can still hear the giant bells of St. Peter’s tolling, mourning the death of John Paul II joined by all the smaller bells throughout Rome in a cacophony of sorrow. This time however, hundreds of thousands of mourners will not line up to see his body nor be present at his funeral. Instead, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI simply left His Papal Palace and has launched us right into the preparation for the next election.
Having arrived at Castel Gondolfo, the Pope’s customary summer residence, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI handed over his fisherman ring and papal seal to be destroyed. These two items reflect his papal authority. When a new Pope is elected, they will be refashioned.
On March 1, the Cardinals of the Church began to meet in pre-conclave gatherings. In these they are briefed on the needs of the Church, the status of the world, and discuss when to start the conclave. The conclave is the gathering of the cardinals of the Church to elect the new Pope. At the latest, the Conclave will start March 15.
Some may ask, “So, now, who is in charge of the Church?” The answer has two components. First, every geographical area is led by a bishop who is one of the successors of the Apostles. He derives his authority having been ordained as a bishop and being united with the Pope and other bishops. They still govern in their own areas. The second answer comes from the fact that the Vatican is a self-governing country. It has a President which governs the day to day affairs for the Pope.
Remembering the hordes of reporters that descended on Rome eight years ago, I can imagine that today the street, Via Conciliazione is filled with television and newsmen. Outlandish stories come out, conspiracies abound, projections are made, and favorite candidates are “canonized” leading up to and through the conclave.
Yet, all of us are equal as we await the next Pope.
Fr. Jason Cargo is priest at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana. His weekly articles will share reflections of Pope Benedict, and follow the selection process to choose a new leader of the Catholic Church.