Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Papal Election II

The word conclave comes from the Latin—cum clave—meaning “with a key” denoting the fact that the Cardinals are locked into the place where the election of the pope takes place.  As I mentioned yesterday this is not necessarily the Sistine Chapel and over the centuries the popes have been elected in a variety of places both in the city of Rome and beyond—sometimes far beyond—Rome. 
The Cardinals elect the pope not because they are Cardinals but because as Cardinals they are the pastors or deacons of the principal parishes of Rome.  This is a formality, of course, none of them actually functions as a pastor or deacon, but each one carries the title Cardinal priest of (name of church) or Cardinal deacon of (name of diaconal church).  In addition there are seven Cardinal bishops who hold the title of the seven ancient dioceses neighboring Rome.  These titles too are formalities.  Nevertheless, they represent the suffragen bishops, local pastors, and principal deacons of the Roman Church who for the first thousand years of the Church’s history had the right of election of the bishop of Rome.  The right of the Cardinals to elect comes from their holding title to these churches or dioceses.  There are also four patriarchs of eastern Churches in union with the See of Rome who currently are Cardinals.  Since the days of Paul VI such patriarchs, when they are named Cardinals, rank with the Cardinal bishops but do not carry a title. 
In any event to go back to the conclave and its development in the process of papal elections: in 1216, only two days following the death of Innocent III, the Cardinals meeting in Perugia were locked into the bishop’s palace for the election.  But this was a very peculiar election.  There were seventeen cardinals present and eight who were unable to be there because of the distance.  Among the eight is counted Stephan Langton who upon being named Archbishop of Canterbury in 1207, had resigned his position as Cardinal Priest of San Crisogono and so it is not clear whether or not he was still a cardinal and had a right to vote.  As he was in England and could not have returned in time, the point is moot.   The seventeen Cardinals present chose not to elect a pope.  Instead they elected a committee of two—Cardinal Ugolino de Segni, nephew of Innocent II and future Gregory IX and Guido de Palestrina—to choose the pope.  The two-man committee selected the 68 year old Cardinal Cencio Savelli, known as Camerario (the waiter) who became Honorius III.  Being locked in for the election was an innovation and seems to have been imposed by the cardinals themselves to make them focus on a quick elective process. 
The situation was different in 1241.  The Cardinals were meeting in Rome and there was great pressure on them as the Church had been at war with the Emperor, Frederick II.  The Emperor had Rome surrounded by his army and was blocking the arrival of several cardinals hostile to his interests.  He was keeping two Cardinals prisoner at Tivoli, just outside Rome.  The people of Rome under the leadership of Senator Matteo Orsini, wanting the election to be fast and efficient, forced the Cardinals under guard into the Septizodium, a ruined palace over a thousand years old on the Palatine Hill.  Conditions there were miserable.  The roof leaked—an aggravation increased by the guards stationed there urinating on the roof with their urine leaking down along with rain into the electoral chamber. The cardinals were only allowed two servants each, the food was horrid and still, after three weeks, there was no candidate.  At this point, Orsini locked the doors allowing no one in and no one out.  The situation was so bad that one Cardinal, the Englishman Robert Somercotes, the Cardinal Deacon of Sant’Eustachio, died.  Other Cardinals began to suffer health problems.  Finally on October 25, Cardinal Goffredo di Castiligone was elected as Celestine IV.  It is unknown how old Celestine was at the time of his election but he was among the oldest of the cardinals.  His health was so compromised by the conditions of the conclave that he himself died only two weeks later.  The papacy would be empty for two years until the election of Innocent IV.   Most historians consider this 1241 election the first conclave for while the 1216 election had been conducted in seclusion it was self-imposed whereas in last two weeks of the 1241 election the enclosure had been imposed on them.  Such enclosure did not always insure a quick election however, though it does so these modern days. 
Speaking of quick elections, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that this will be a “long” conclave.  I agree but, of course, “long” is a relative term.  Five days will be a long conclave and I will be surprised if we do not have a pope by the weekend.  One friend of mine has drawn “nine” on a lottery based on which will be the decisive ballot.  That would be Thursday evening (noon EST) and that sounds about right to me.  But it is all a guess.   In the meantime, prayer is our best way of participating.  These are critical days for the Church and the choice of a chief Shepherd to lead us out of this morass is fundamental to the credibility of the Church

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