Monday, April 11, 2005

Selecting a new pope: The first phase--the pre-scrutiny (part 7)

After this third oath has been taken and prayers offered, the cardinal dean (Ratzinger) asks the cardinals if voting may begin or if any other questions or doubts remain. If the consensus is that the voting may go ahead, then the conclave commences. As mentioned earlier, the election will take place in the Sistine Chapel where according to John Paul "everything is conducive to an awareness of the presence of God, in whose sight each person will one day be judged."

For centuries there were three procedures for voting. John Paul changed this and approved only one method. The procedure which John Paul has approved is the scrutiny. The other two ways of voting--namely, the election by acclamation quasi ex inspiratione and the election per compromissum--have been forbidden. Voting by acclamation is where one or more cardinals stand and verbally proclaim one of their brother cardinals to be their choice. When others follow in acclamation, a new pope is elected. As you can imagine, this can be quite dramatic.

The other way is per compromissum, or delegation, where the election is entrusted to a smaller body of electors if the cardinals as a group cannot come up with a new pope. This too has been abolished.

Anyway, basically there are three phases in the election process approved by John Paul--the scrutiny: the first is called the pre-scrutiny; the second phase is the scrutiny itself; and the third phase is the post-scrutiny.

In the first phase, the first task is the distribution of the ballot papers by the master of ceremonies who give at least two or three to each cardinal-elector. Only those cardinals under the age of 80 may vote. Also under this phase, the cardinals choose among themselves the three scrutineers (those who add up the votes), the three persons charged with collecting the votes of the sick (infirmarii), and finally the three revisers. The revisers basically double-checks the count made by the scrutineers.

After this first phase has been completed, the cardinals enter into the voting itself, the scrutiny.

[Next on part 8: The scrutiny]

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