A daunting task for new Pope:
How best will the new shepherd lead his flock
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI a fortnight ago raised many
eyebrows in the world and created anxiety in the Catholic Church about
her successor. The resignation also raised many questions among the
faithful about the Holy Father’s early abdication. The media have been
highlighting the views of Catholics across the world who speculate that
the next shepherd would be a Latin American, to some an African and
others an Asian.
Pope Benedict XVI steps down
Prior to Pope Benedict’s election in 2005 some expected a black Pope
to be elected opening a new chapter in the Papal history which has been
dominated by white Popes.
Pope John Paul II sometimes called Blessed John Paul or John Paul the
Great was the first non Italian Pope who led the flock from 1978 to
2005. He was the second largest serving Pope in history.
“The concern of the Church should be on how best the new shepherd
would lead the flock and not about who would be the next Pope”, a
leading Catholic priest who did not wish to be quoted said.
The new shepherd will face a daunting task to lead his flock
entrusted to him by Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Allegations of
inappropriate acts by priests and bishops especially in Europe have
brought the church into disrepute.
The 85-year-old German-born Pope who was previously Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger is the first shepherd to have resigned from the papacy in 600
years. Pope Benedict XVI was the successor to Pope John Paul II as the
265th Pope of the Catholic Church. He was elected on April 18, 2005.
The word Pope in Greek known as father reveals the paternal love of
the true father to his children. The Pope is the successor of St. Peter,
the first shepherd who laid down his life for his flock. Nurturing the
faith, and fostering peace and unity among his flock is a major
responsibility vested on the shepherd. The Pope invoked his final Sunday
blessing of his pontificate on a cheering crowd in St. Peter’s Square
last Sunday outlining his frail years and life of private prayer where
he will spend in a secluded monastery.
A large number of the faithful and admirers flocked for the Holy
Father’s last general audience last Wednesday. A thunderous applause and
the many banners reading “Grazie” (Thanks) held up in the crowd,
estimated by police to be around 100,000 gathered at St. Peter’s Square
to bid farewell to the Holy Father.
A papal resignation occurs when the reigning pope voluntarily steps
down from his position. As the reign of the Pope has conventionally been
from election until death, the Papal resignation is an uncommon event.
Only five Popes have unambiguously resigned between the 11th and 15th
A well-known resignation of a pope is that of Celestine V in 1294.
After only five months of the pontificate, he issued a solemn decree
declaring it permissible for a Pope to resign, and then did so himself.
He lived two more years as a hermit and then prisoner of his successor
Boniface VII and was later canonised.
Gregory XII (1406–1415) resigned in 1415 to end the Western Schism.
Before resigning, he formally convened the Council of Constance and
authorised it to elect his successor.
The Papal appointment is the oldest method to select the Pope. The
Papal section before 1059 was often characterised by appointing secular
European rulers or their predecessors. The procedures thereafter of the
Papal conclave are designed to constrain the interference of secular
rulers which characterised the first millennium of the Roman Catholic
The election of the Pope almost always takes place in the Sistine
Chapel, in a sequestered meeting called a conclave (so called because
the Cardinal electors are cloistered until they elect a new pope). Three
Cardinals are chosen by lot to collect the votes of absent cardinal
electors (by reason of illness), three are chosen by lot to count the
votes, and three are chosen by lot to review the count of the votes. The
ballots are distributed and each Cardinal elector writes the name of his
choice on it and pledges aloud that he is voting for “one whom under God
I think ought to be elected” before folding and depositing his vote on a
plate atop a large chalice placed on the altar (in the 2005 Conclave, a
special urn was used for this purpose instead of a chalice and plate).
The plate is then used to drop the ballot into the chalice, making it
difficult for electors to insert multiple ballots. Before being read,
the ballots are counted while still folded; if the number of ballots
does not match the number of electors, the ballots are burned unopened
and a new vote is held. Otherwise, each ballot is read aloud by the
presiding Cardinal, who pierces the ballot with a needle and thread,
stringing all the ballots together and tying the ends of the thread to
ensure accuracy and honesty. Voting continues until someone is elected
by a two-thirds majority.
One of the most prominent aspects of the papal election process is
the means by which the results of a ballot are announced to the world.
Once the ballots are counted and bound together, they are burned in a
special stove erected in the Sistine Chapel, with the smoke escaping
through a small chimney visible from St. Peter’s Square.
The ballots from an unsuccessful vote are burned along with a
chemical compound to create black smoke. (Traditionally, wet straw was
used to produce the black smoke, but this was not completely reliable.
The chemical compound is more reliable than the straw.) When a vote is
successful, the ballots are burned alone, sending white smoke through
the chimney and announcing to the world the election of a new Pope. At
the end of the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, church bells
were also rung to signal that a new pope had been chosen.
Pope Benedict XVI amended the Roman Catholic church law so that the
Conclave selecting his successor can be brought forward, a spokesman for
the Vatican said. The change to the Constitution means Cardinals will no
longer have to wait 15 days after the Papacy becomes vacant before
beginning the Conclave. As a result, the Conclave can now start before
Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, the first by a Pope in nearly 600
years, took effect on Thursday, February 28.
“I leave the College of Cardinals the possibility to bring forward
the start of the Conclave once all Cardinals are present, or push the
beginning of the election back by a few days should there be serious
reasons,” the Pope said in a statement read by his spokesman, Rev. Fr.
Vatican officials said that the change was partly due to the fact
that the Church Constitution was written principally for a Conclave
following the death of a Pope, rather than a resignation.
The decision on the date of the beginning of the Conclave will be
taken by the Cardinals but will not be earlier than March 1, officials
A Conclave beginning in mid-March would leave little time to have a
new Pope installed for one of the most important periods in the Catholic
calendar, as the Holy Week, leading up to Easter, begins on March 24.
According to reports the Cardinals will lock themselves in the
Conclave in about two weeks.
The process of choosing a new Pope involves Cardinals from across the
world gathering in Rome where they will then conduct a series of secret
voting until one of their number receives a two-thirds majority of the
Besides giving the College of Cardinals authority to change the date
of the upcoming Conclave to elect his successor, the Vatican specified
other rules for the secret vote, including the penalty of
excommunication for those who share inside information.
The Vatican said on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI had issued a motu
propio, or administrative order which mandates that the Conclave must
occur within 20 days of a Pope’s resignation or death, with “all the
Cardinal electors present.”
According to the order those who are allowed into the secret vote to
act as aides should take an oath of secrecy.
According to Colombo Archdiocese sources, Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm
Ranjith had left for the Vatican to take part in the election of the new
[List of Popes]
St. Peter (32-67), .St. Linus (67-76), .St. Anacletus (Cletus)
(76-88), St. Clement I (88-97), St. Evaristus (97-105), St. Alexander I
(105-115), St. Sixtus I (115-125) Also called Xystus I, St. Telesphorus
(125-136), St. Hyginus (136-140), St. Pius I (140-155), St. Anicetus
(155-166), St. Soter (166-175), St. Eleutherius (175-189), St. Victor I
(189-199), St. Zephyrinus (199-217), St. Callistus I (217-22)Callistus
and the following three Popes were opposed by St. Hippolytus, antipope
(217-236), St. Urban I (222-30), St. Pontain (230-35), St. Anterus
(235-36), St. Fabian (236-50), St. Cornelius (251-53)Opposed by
Novatian, antipope (251), St. Lucius I (253-54), St. Stephen I
(254-257), St. Sixtus II (257-258), St. Dionysius (260-268), St. Felix I
(269-274), St. Eutychian (275-283), St. Caius (283-296) Also called
Gaius, St. Marcellinus (296-304), St. Marcellus I (308-309), St.
Eusebius (309 or 310), St. Miltiades (311-14), St. Sylvester I (314-35),
St. Marcus (336), St. Julius I (337-52) Liberius (352-66)Opposed by
Felix II, antipope (355-365), St. Damasus I (366-83)Opposed by
Ursicinus, antipope (366-367), St. Siricius (384-99), St. Anastasius I
(399-401), St. Innocent I (401-17), St. Zosimus (417-18), St. Boniface I
(418-22)Opposed by Eulalius, antipope (418-419), St. Celestine I
(422-32), St. Sixtus III (432-40), St. Leo I (the Great) (440-61), St.
Hilarius (461-68), St. Simplicius (468-83), St. Felix III (II) (483-92),
St. Gelasius I (492-96), Anastasius II (496-98), St. Symmachus
(498-514)Opposed by Laurentius, antipope (498-501), St. Hormisdas
(514-23), St. John I (523-26), St. Felix IV (III) (526-30), Boniface II
(530-32)Opposed by Dioscorus, Antipope (530) John II (533-35), St.
Agapetus I (535-36) Also called Agapitus I, St. Silverius (536-37),
Vigilius (537-55), Pelagius I (556-61), John III (561-74), Benedict I
(575-79), Pelagius II (579-90), St. Gregory I (the Great) (590-604),
Sabinian (604-606), Boniface III (607), St. Boniface IV (608-15), St.
Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (615-18), Boniface V (619-25), Honorius I
(625-38), Severinus (640), John IV (640-42), Theodore I (642-49), St.
Martin I (649-55), St. Eugene I (655-57), St. Vitalian (657-72),
Adeodatus (II) (672-76), Donus (676-78), St. Agatho (678-81), .St. Leo
II (682-83), St. Benedict II (684-85), John V (685-86), Conon (686-87),
St. Sergius I (687-701)Opposed by Theodore and Paschal, Antipopes (687),
John VI (701-05), John VII (705-07), Sisinnius (708), Constantine
(708-15), St. Gregory II (715-31), St. Gregory III (731-41), St. Zachary
(741-52), Stephen II (752) Because he died before being consecrated,
many authoritative lists omit him, Stephen III (752-57), St. Paul I
(757-67), Stephen IV (767-72)Opposed by Constantine II (767) and Philip
(768), Antipopes (767), Adrian I (772-95), St. Leo III (795-816),
Stephen V (816-17), St. Paschal I (817-24), Eugene II (824-27),
Valentine (827), Gregory IV (827-44), Sergius II (844-47)Opposed by
John, Antipope (855), St. Leo IV (847-55), Benedict III (855-58)Opposed
by Anastasius, antipope (855), St. Nicholas I (the Great) (858-67),
Adrian II (867-72), John VIII (872-82), Marinus I (882-84), St. Adrian
III (884-85), Stephen VI (885-91), Formosus (891-96), Boniface VI (896),
Stephen VII (896-97), Romanus (897), Theodore II (897), John IX
(898-900), Benedict IV (900-03), Leo V (903)Opposed by Christopher,
Antipope (903-904), Sergius III (904-11), Anastasius III (911-13), Lando
(913-14), John X (914-28), Leo VI (928), Stephen VIII (929-31),.John XI
(931-35), Leo VII (936-39), Stephen IX (939-42), Marinus II (942-46),
Agapetus II (946-55), John XII (955-63), Leo VIII (963-64), Benedict V
(964), John XIII (965-72), Benedict VI (973-74), Benedict VII
(974-83)Benedict and John XIV were opposed by Boniface VII, Antipope
(974; 984-985), John XIV (983-84), John XV (985-96), Gregory V
(996-99)Opposed by John XVI, Antipope (997-998), Sylvester II
(999-1003), John XVII (1003), John XVIII (1003-09), Sergius IV
(1009-12), Benedict VIII (1012-24)Opposed by Gregory, Antipope (1012),
John XIX (1024-32), Benedict IX (1032-45) He appears on this list three
separate times, because he was twice deposed and restored, Sylvester III
(1045) Considered by some to be an Antipope, Benedict IX (1045), Gregory
VI (1045-46), Clement II (1046-47), Benedict IX (1047-48), Damasus II
(1048), St. Leo IX (1049-54), Victor II (1055-57), Stephen X (1057-58),
Nicholas II (1058-61)Opposed by Benedict X, Antipope (1058), Alexander
II (1061-73)Opposed by Honorius II, Antipope (1061-1072), St. Gregory
VII (1073-85)Gregory and the following three Popes were opposed by
Guibert (“Clement III”), Antipope (1080-1100), Blessed Victor III
(1086-87), Blessed Urban II (1088-99), Paschal II (1099-1118)Opposed by
Theodoric (1100), Aleric (1102) and Maginulf (“Sylvester IV”,
1105-1111), Antipopes (1100), Gelasius II (1118-19)Opposed by Burdin
(“Gregory VIII”), Antipope (1118), Callistus II (1119-24), Honorius II
(1124-30)Opposed by Celestine II, antipope (1124), Innocent II
(1130-43)Opposed by Anacletus II (1130-1138) and Gregory Conti (“Victor
IV”) (1138), Antipopes (1138), Celestine II (1143-44), Lucius II
(1144-45), Blessed Eugene III (1145-53), Anastasius IV (1153-54), Adrian
IV (1154-59), Alexander III (1159-81)Opposed by Octavius (“Victor IV”)
(1159-1164), Pascal III (1165-1168), Callistus III (1168-1177) and
Innocent III (1178-1180), Antipopes, Lucius III (1181-85), Urban III
(1185-87), Gregory VIII (1187), Clement III (1187-91), Celestine III
(1191-98), Innocent III (1198-1216), Honorius III (1216-27),
Gregory IX (1227-41), Celestine IV (1241), Innocent IV (1243-54),
Alexander IV (1254-61), Urban IV (1261-64), Clement IV (1265-68),
Blessed Gregory X (1271-76), Blessed Innocent V (1276), Adrian V (1276),
John XXI (1276-77), Nicholas III (1277-80), Martin IV (1281-85),
.Honorius IV (1285-87), Nicholas IV (1288-92), St. Celestine V (1294),
Boniface VIII (1294-1303), Blessed Benedict XI (1303-04), Clement V
(1305-14), John XXII (1316-34)Opposed by Nicholas V, Antipope
(1328-1330), Benedict XII (1334-42), Clement VI (1342-52), Innocent VI
(1352-62), Blessed Urban V (1362-70), Gregory XI (1370-78), Urban VI
(1378-89)Opposed by Robert of Geneva (“Clement VII”), Antipope
(1378-1394), Boniface IX (1389-1404)Opposed by Robert of Geneva
(“Clement VII”) (1378-1394), Pedro de Luna (“Benedict XIII”) (1394-1417)
and Baldassare Cossa (“John XXIII”) (1400-1415), Antipopes, Innocent VII
(1404-06)Opposed by Pedro de Luna (“Benedict XIII”) (1394-1417) and
Baldassare Cossa (“John XXIII”) (1400-1415), Antipopes, Gregory XII
(1406-15)Opposed by Pedro de Luna (“Benedict XIII”) (1394-1417),
Baldassare Cossa (“John XXIII”) (1400-1415), and Pietro Philarghi
(“Alexander V”) (1409-1410), Antipopes, Martin V (1417-31), Eugene IV
(1431-47)Opposed by Amadeus of Savoy (“Felix V”), Antipope (1439-1449),
Nicholas V (1447-55), Callistus III (1455-58), Pius II (1458-64), Paul
II (1464-71), Sixtus IV (1471-84), Innocent VIII (1484-92), Alexander VI
(1492-1503), Pius III (1503), Julius II (1503-13), Leo X (1513-21),
drian VI (1522-23), Clement VII (1523-34), Paul III (1534-49), Julius
III (1550-55), Marcellus II (1555) Paul IV (1555-59), Pius IV (1559-65),
St. Pius V (1566-72) Gregory XIII (1572-85), Sixtus V (1585-90), Urban
VII (1590), Gregory XIV (1590-91), Innocent IX (1591), Clement VIII
(1592-1605), Leo XI (1605), Paul V (1605-21), Gregory XV (1621-23) Urban
VIII (1623-44), Innocent X (1644-55), Alexander VII (1655-67), Clement
IX (1667-69), Clement X (1670-76), Blessed Innocent XI (1676-89),
Alexander VIII (1689-91), Innocent XII (1691-1700), Clement XI
(1700-21), Innocent XIII (1721-24), Benedict XIII (1724-30), Clement XII
(1730-40), Benedict XIV (1740-58), Clement XIII (1758-69), Clement XIV
(1769-74), Pius VI (1775-99), Pius VII (1800-23), Leo XII (1823-29),
Pius VIII (1829-30), Gregory XVI (1831-46), Blessed Pius IX (1846-78),
Leo XIII (1878-1903), St. Pius X (1903-14), Benedict XV
(1914-22)Biographies of Benedict XV and his successors will be added at
a later date, Pius XI (1922-39), Pius XII (1939-58) Blessed John XXIII
(1958-63), Paul VI (1963-78), John Paul I (1978), Blessed John Paul II
(1978-2005), Benedict XVI (2005-2013).