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The Conclave

2013-03-13 10:57

They process in to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel - 115 cardinal-electors - the stunning 15th century setting for the election of a new pope. They will elect the leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics throughout the world.

Of the assembled cardinals, 67 were created by Pope Emeritus Benedict and 48 by Blessed John Paul II. The electors spent the last week with cardinals above the voting age discussing challenges facing the church and sizing up papal candidates, including possibly electing the first non-European pope in more than a millennium. With only 24 percent of Catholics living in Europe, pressure is growing to choose a pontiff from elsewhere in the world who would bring a different perspective.

Members of the electors include the leading contenders: Angelo Scola, 71, archbishop of Milan; Vienna's archbishop Christoph Schonborn, 68; Canada's Ouellet, the 68-year-old archbishop of Montreal; and Sao Paulo's archbishop Odilo Scherer of Brazil, 63.

The conclave officially began after Guido Marini, the master of papal liturgical ceremonies, cried “Extra omnes,” meaning “Everyone out!” Marini, in a purple cloak, then closed the massive wooden doors, allowing the princes of the church to get down to the business of picking the 266th pope.

Of course, nobody really knows who it will be. Whoever it is, and he agrees, he will retire to the Room of Tears. It's just a few feet away from the Sistine Chapel, but most importantly, it's where a newly elected Pope wears his Papal white vestment for the first time.

Three papal vestments of different sizes are already in the Room of Tears. Also there are three different pairs of red shoes and papal hats, so the next Pope can choose his size before he is introduced to the world, nervously, on St. Peter's balcony, as the new pontiff.

Fr Denis McBride C.Ss.R.

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