Empty papal seat


#1

What do the rules say about the papacy being empty for so long after the pontiff dies or retires? Who will lead the church while this is going on?


#2

General Congregations of cardinals run day to day business, but no major decisions may be made until a Pope is elected. In effect, we are leaderless until we have a new Pope.


#3

[quote="billcu1, post:1, topic:315343"]
What do the rules say about the papacy being empty for so long after the pontiff dies or retires? Who will lead the church while this is going on?

[/quote]

I'm not sure what you mean by "so long". In all likelyhood, the seat will be vacant for less time than it is after a Pope dies. The conclave can proceed without the need for a funeral and time of mourning.


#4

I heard there were so many days that the seat of the holy father had to be empty before the next pope takes over.


#5

Does that mean there are no new dioceses or forgiveness from excommunication or new bishops or archbishops no new monsignors until a new pope?


#6

[quote="billcu1, post:4, topic:315343"]
I heard there were so many days that the seat of the holy father had to be empty before the next pope takes over.

[/quote]

If the Pope dies, the conclave cannot begin until after the period of mourning. In this case, theoretically, the conclave process could begin March 1. There are meetings that occur before the actual conclave is locked up and the conclave process usually doesn't result in a definitive vote on Day 1. So, the process would take several days at least. But that's not very long at all.


#7

[quote="billcu1, post:5, topic:315343"]
Does that mean there are no new dioceses or forgiveness from excommunication or new bishops or archbishops no new monsignors until a new pope?

[/quote]

Correct. The creation of new dioceses is very rare so that's not going to be an issue. The process of selecting a new bishop has many steps before it goes to the Pope. Many diocese are currently without bishops and a wait of an additional week or so isn't going to make much difference. Any appointments that are "in process" might be acted upon by Pope Benedict prior to Feb. 28 or he may choose to leave that up to his successor.

Other than the lifting of excommunications, none of these is "time critical". But there are very few excommunications reserved to the Pope either. Most are lifted at the level of the Bishop.


#8

Under the current rules governing the start of the conclave, it cannot begin fewer than 15 days from when the Papacy becomes vacant and not more than 20 days after. So, unless the Holy Father changes it, March 15th is the earliest start.

As for who runs things, it's more complicated. Most of the congregations and commissions officially cease functioning during a period of sede vacante. Day to day decisions are made by the College of Cardinals, but their authority is limited.

Don't worry, the Church will survive. A vacancy in the See of Peter has happened more than 200 times and we're still standing!


#9

Under the current rules governing the start of the conclave, it cannot begin fewer than 15 days from when the Papacy becomes vacant and not more than 20 days after. So, unless the Holy Father changes it, March 15th is the earliest start.

This is correct. Traditionally, the waiting period was shorter. There were nine days of mourning after the death of the old Pope, and then the conclave would begin. That changed after the 1922 conclave, when a number of North American cardinals arrived just too late to participate.

So now the waiting period is 15 days. This still works, usually, since the funerary proceedings go on for about a week, and then you have another week of preparation, and then the conclave begins.

But this time, we have no mourning. We have no death. We've known for a week already, and he still isn't stepping down for another 10 days. Logically, there is no reason the Conclave can't begin by the fourth.

But law is law, and only the Pope can change it. The Vatican is releasing more details in the next couple of days, hopefully that will include a modification to the laws that permit an earlier conclave.


#10

[quote="Corki, post:7, topic:315343"]
Correct. The creation of new dioceses is very rare so that's not going to be an issue. The process of selecting a new bishop has many steps before it goes to the Pope. Many diocese are currently without bishops and a wait of an additional week or so isn't going to make much difference. Any appointments that are "in process" might be acted upon by Pope Benedict prior to Feb. 28 or he may choose to leave that up to his successor.

Other than the lifting of excommunications, none of these is "time critical". But there are very few excommunications reserved to the Pope either. Most are lifted at the level of the Bishop.

[/quote]

New dioceses and new configurations of dioceses are done all the time. Go read the Apostolic Constitutions section of Benedict XVI at vatican.va. Like 90% of them concern dioceses.


#11

ok, so “rare” is relative. They don’t happen so often that a delay of two or three weeks will have a profound effect on the status of any diocese.


#12

Even if the pope has taken action to erect a diocese or appoint a bishop, the decree doesn't actually take effect until it is published. The Vatican publishing house ceases its work upon a sede vacante (to avoid things slipping by while no one is at the helm). If these sorts of things are not yet published, they have to be re-approved by the new pontiff once he takes office, so the delay may be longer than simply the length of the interregnum.

Another question on this subject... I realize it isn't as big an issue these days, but who acts as commander-in-chief of the pope's military during an interregnum?


#13

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:2, topic:315343"]
General Congregations of cardinals run day to day business, but no major decisions may be made until a Pope is elected. In effect, we are leaderless until we have a new Pope.

[/quote]

Actually, the Camerlengo (usually and in the current case, the same person as the Secretary of State) is the caretaker of the Church during the interregnum.


#14

I believe many refer to Universi Domineci Gregis when saying that the College must wait 15 days to convene a conclave, but only to wait "for those who are absent." Seeing as the Holy Father will speak to the Cardinals on Feb. 28, it's conceivable that all of the cardinal-electors would be present already by March 1, so it it's hypothetically possible, in that situation, for the conclave to begin the day after His Holiness' abdication takes force


#15

[quote="mburn16, post:9, topic:315343"]
This is correct. Traditionally, the waiting period was shorter. There were nine days of mourning after the death of the old Pope, and then the conclave would begin. That changed after the 1922 conclave, when a number of North American cardinals arrived just too late to participate.

So now the waiting period is 15 days. This still works, usually, since the funerary proceedings go on for about a week, and then you have another week of preparation, and then the conclave begins.

But this time, we have no mourning. We have no death. We've known for a week already, and he still isn't stepping down for another 10 days. Logically, there is no reason the Conclave can't begin by the fourth.

But law is law, and only the Pope can change it. The Vatican is releasing more details in the next couple of days, hopefully that will include a modification to the laws that permit an earlier conclave.

[/quote]

So things are run as far as day to day decisions by the college of cardinals? What is a general congregation that occurs before conclave?


#16

Conclave Lengths from the Washington Post:

No. days: 4, 3, 5, 2, 4, 3, 2, 3, 2

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/daily/graphics/conclave_041905.gif


#17

Contrary to popular perception, the Catholic Church is actually pretty much decentralized when it comes to daily operations. Each Bishop is in charge of his diocese. Each pastor is in charge of his parish. The bishop has no need to contact the Vatican except rarely, and each bishop makes an ad limina visit to the Vatican once every 5 years. It's far more decentralized that the U.S. Federal bureaucracy.


#18

[quote="Corki, post:7, topic:315343"]
Other than the lifting of excommunications, none of these is "time critical". But there are very few excommunications reserved to the Pope either. Most are lifted at the level of the Bishop.

[/quote]

The excommunications reserved to the Holy See are dealt with by the major penitentiary during the interregnum. Given the importance of the Church's authority to bind and loose, the major penitentiary remains in office during the interregnum, and matters that he would normally submit to the Pope are submitted to the General Congregation of the College of Cardinals.


#19

[quote="aemcpa, post:18, topic:315343"]
The excommunications reserved to the Holy See are dealt with by the major penitentiary during the interregnum. Given the importance of the Church's authority to bind and loose, the major penitentiary remains in office during the interregnum, and matters that he would normally submit to the Pope are submitted to the General Congregation of the College of Cardinals.

[/quote]

Cool piece of additional information. Thanks.


#20

[quote="billcu1, post:15, topic:315343"]
So things are run as far as day to day decisions by the college of cardinals? What is a general congregation that occurs before conclave?

[/quote]

They are meetings of cardinals held before the formal deliberations. Sometimes they take care of administrative matters at these meetings. All of the Cardinals, not just those who can vote, can take part in the general congregations.

While I am usually lothe to link NCR, John Allen's "Conclave 101" is very informative.

ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/quick-course-conclave-101

Just don't read the comments. :(:mad:


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