Whether you are a Roman Catholic or not the papal election scheduled for Tuesday may intrigue you. It will have the razzamatazz of a celebrity occasion and in some ways it probably is. Men dressed in finery, the Cardinals, will elect a new Pope, a man who will also dress to the nines.
Whichever Cardinal becomes the new Pope has many tasks in front of him. The RC church has been rocked by many scandals in recent days, weeks and months, some being historic. The faithful need the right man for the job, but whether they will get that in this election is not known.
Morning Mass will be held Tuesday, in St Peter's Basilica, before eligible cardinals are closeted away in conclave as they begin the process to elect a new Pope. The cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church announced Friday that the conclave to elect the next pope would begin on Tuesday. The transition was set in motion February 28 when Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his resignation.
The cardinals held a vote Friday to determine the date of the secret election or conclave. 115 cardinals will be locked in the Sistine Chapel, where the election is held. They will be closeted there until they reach a decision. It will not be a truly spiritual experience as cardinals will jockey for position and lobby on behalf of others. That process has been going on since the pope announced his resignation. As Pope Benedict XVI had been pope for a relatively short time many people will already be familiar with the election process.
Each time the cardinals vote the election papers are burned. Saturday a special chimney, which will release the tell-tale smoke, was erected on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. If the pluming smoke is grey, it will mean that the cardinals are undecided. White smoke will be a precursor to an announcement that a new pope has been chosen. It is the first time in 600 years that conclave has met following a papal resignation; normally the cardinals meet following a papal death.
Those voting face a tough decision. The Roman Catholic Church is facing historical allegations of sexual abuse and corruption. It is fitting then that the cardinals will participate in Morning Mass before their voluntary and temporary imprisonment. Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice (for the Election of the Roman Pontiff) will be held mid-morning in St Peter's Basilica. In the afternoon the 115 cardinals will gather in the Pauline Chapel. As they make their way into the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will be accompanied by the chanting of the Litany of the Saints.
The world may know the identity of the new Pope in hours, days or even weeks. Pundits, however, predict it will not be a protracted election.