Thursday, April 14, 2005

Selecting a new pope: the post-scrutiny (part 9)

If a valid election has taken place, the ballots will be burned by the scrutineers before the cardinals leave the Sistine Chapel. If no one received two thirds of the votes, the ballots from the first vote will be burned together with those from the second vote. Daily there will be four chances for the cardinals to vote: twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. If no one is elected in the first ballot in the morning for instance, a second one is to take place immediately. If on the morning's second ballot no one is elected, the cardinals return in the afternoon to cast two ballots.

The cardinals are to vote in this manner for three days. If after 3 days no one elected, voting is suspended for a day to allow the cardinals to reflect, pray, or even informally discuss the voting among themselves.

After this one-day break in voting, the voting resumes using the same procedures outlined above until the seventh ballot. If after the seventh ballot no one is still elected, the cardinal chamberlain will invite the cardinals to discuss how they might proceed. After this discussion, in whatever manner the cardinals wish to proceed, the only way for a valid election to take place is through an absolute majority.

According to tradition, the cardinals signal the results of voting by adding material to color the smoke from the burning ballots which appear above the Sistine Chapel: white for a new pope, black for no decision. This year for the first time, they will accompany the white smoke with ringing bells, to remove any doubt about the results.

In his Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis ("On The Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff"), John Paul II advises whoever is elected "not to refuse, for fear of its weight, the office to which he has been called, but to submit humbly to the design of the divine will. God who imposes the burden will sustain him with his hand, so that he will be able to bear it....[God] will grant him the strength not to be overwhelmed by the weight of his office."

[On the 10th and last part: the acceptance and proclamation of the new pope.]

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