Conclave to elect new Pope begins today
Vatican City, Mar 12 : Roman Catholic cardinals are scheduled to gather here to elect the new pope as the conclave commences on Tuesday at the Sistine Chapel with prayers being chanted in ancient languages and votes being carried out in absolute secrecy following the rituals strictly.
"On Tuesday at 3:45 pm, the cardinals will move from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace. At 4:30 pm, the cardinals will process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel and, after they have all taken the oath, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations will give the order "Extra omnes" for all those not taking part in the Conclave to leave the Sistine Chapel," the Vatican had said in a statement.
The cardinals are allowed to carry out four rounds of voting each day until the new pope is elected. The voting is minutely scripted and the rectangular paper ballots are counted, collected, pierced with a needle and burned.
"The cardinals will listen to a meditation given by Cardinal Grech, concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church, after which they will proceed to the first vote. At 7:00 pm they will pray Vespers and, at 7:30 pm, will return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae," said the statement.
"Beginning on Wednesday, 13 March, the cardinals will move from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Pauline Chapel at 7:45 am where, at 8:15 am, they will celebrate Mass. At 9:30 am they will enter the Sistine Chapel, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and proceed to the voting process," the Vatican said.
"Around 12:00 pm they will return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae and, after lunch there, will go back to the Sistine Chapel at 4:00 pm where they will pray briefly and resume the voting procedure until 7:00 pm," it said.
While there are no formal nominees, and technically, each cardinal enters the conclave with the possibility of being the pope, the names of the favourites crop up before hand. The next pope must earn two-thirds of the votes, or 77 of 115 in this case. The winner's name is intoned in Latin.
The first ballot is expected late Tuesday afternoon,which will identify the cardinals to whom votes can flow in succeeding rounds - two every morning, two every afternoon.
After each pair of rounds of voting, the ballot papers and other notes are stuffed into a cylindrical cast-iron stove that has been installed by the main entrance of the chapel. Another stove next to it will receive chemicals to turn the smoke white, if a pope is elected, or black, if not.
When the pope is finally elected, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the senior cardinal at the conclave, will approach him and say the words: "Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?" If the answer is yes, he will ask what name the new pope wants to adopt.
Thereafter, prayers will be chanted along with a reading of the Gospel,and then the cardinals will individually approach their new pontiff and "make an act of homage and obedience," according to the constitution.
The new pope will then head to the balcony of St. Peter's and appear before everyone to give blessings, stopping in the Pauline Chapel by himself for a prayer.
Last month, stunning his followers across the globe, Pope Benedict XVI had resigned.
Pope Benedict XVI on Feb 11 announced he will resign on Feb 28. He is the first pontiff to make the move in 600 years, reports said.
Pope Benedict XVI decided to resign due to 'advanced age'.
He was the 265th Pope. He was elected on Apr 19, 2005.
Pertinently, he was elected after the death of Pope John Paul II.
Roman Catholic Church, largest of the Christian denominations with about 1.2 billion adherents, is headed by the Pope and headquartered in Vatican.