With the arrival of the last voting-age-eligible cardinal in Vatican City, the College of Cardinals has set the date for the Papal Conclave. On March 12, the 115 Cardinals eligible to vote will have their first meeting to elect the next pope, according to reports in the Italian and international press.
Construction on the Sistine Chapel had already been underway and with the date set, the conclave to elect the next pope can begin this coming Tuesday. According to AP, setting a date for the conclave means the Cardinals have a pretty strong idea of who the next pope will be. The decision follows a week of meetings discussing Vatican bureaucracy and the challenges facing the Church that the incoming pope must address, as well as what traits the next Pope should have.
While many may focus on problems within the Church, such as corruption or internal feuding, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, of New York, shed some light on what the cardinals are actually discussing. In Cardinal Dolan’s blog, he says that the topics discussed by the cardinals include how to teach the Catholic religion, ways to increase recruitment of priests and “Celebrating the seven sacraments; inviting back those believers who have left; serving the sick and poor, the “least of these;” sustaining our splendid schools, hospitals and agencies of charity; loving our married couples and our families, and defending the dignity of marriage; protecting life where it is most in danger because of war, poverty or abortion; and reinforcing the universal call to holiness given all in the Church.”
Before the cardinals can cast their first ballots in secret at the Sistine Chapel, Mass will be held at St. Peter’s Basilica. There will only be one round of voting on Tuesday and if black smoke is seen billowing out of the chimney that means a new pope has not been elected and the Cardinals will return for four rounds -- two in the morning and two in the afternoon -- of voting on Wednesday.
The conclave to the elect the pope will not be a lengthy one; as AP notes, no conclave has lasted longer than five days. With the conclave beginning on Tuesday, a new pope could be announced by the end of next week. While there has been plenty of speculation about who will be the next pope, the list of qualified candidates has not changed drastically during the pre-conclave meetings. The Vatican secretary of state, a Papal appointment, has also been discussed because of the need for the next Pope to better manage the bureaucracy within the Vatican as well as improve communication within the Church, reports AP.
To learn more about the conclave process to elect a new Pope, visit here.