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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.

Paternal love

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 centuries.

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.

Oldest method

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 Church.

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.

Papal election

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 March 15.

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. Federico Lombardi.

Secret voting

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 said.

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 votes.

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 pope.

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[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).

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