|A papal conclave ballot card from the 16th century|
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
It is good to note, therefore, that on the evening Benedict XVI’s resignation comes into effect, the Brompton Oratory will be hosting a pre-arranged talk for its young adults group after which there will be an all-night vigil of prayer for the intentions of the former pope, the whole Church, as well as the election of a new pontiff. This vigil will take place in the Little Oratory – starting at 9.30pm and concluding with Mass at 7.00am on Friday, 1 March. All are welcome to attend the vigil.
A time for all night vigils and serious fasts
I firmly believe that we will need several more extraordinary acts of prayer and supplication like the one being organised by the Brompton Oratory. The Church is currently facing an enormous crisis, and it’s about time Catholics woke up to the real problems that the current papal abdication may cause. If we do not pray, watch, and fast, there is a grave chance that things could go very wrong indeed during the next few days or weeks. For this reason, I urge as many of you as possible – taking health and the limitations of age into account – to pray and fast as never before from the evening of 28 February until we have a new Holy Father.
If you are willing, and if you are serious about your resolve to see a holy pontiff replace the one who is about to leave, then please consider fasting every day during the interregnum – even living on bread and water if you can (i.e. if you are physically, mentally and spiritually well enough -- if you're not sure whether or not you are able do this, then ask your confessor). If you are not constrained by family or work, why not spend whole nights in prayer, too? We need spiritual warriors at this most confusing of times – not people who think that all we need do is ‘let the cardinals get on with it’. Cardinals are not infallible men! They need our prayers, they need God's grace.
Times are not good, let's pray they don't get worse
In response to Benedict XVI’s resignation, some eminent prelates are now openly questioning certain matters of faith and morals – the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, for example, has backed the German Bishops' approval of the 'morning after pill' (LifeSite News)! Other bishops have openly questioned Church discipline, especially in the area of clerical celibacy. The presence of certain Cardinal Electors (think child abuse cover-ups) in Rome will unhappily cause enormous distress for many -- and provide column inches for the Church's enemies in the press. All the while, we are also witnessing ugly campaigning and scheming amongst a small number of princes of the Church, who seem to have placed their own ambitions before the needs of the flock of Jesus Christ. The longer any interregnum lasts, the messier this whole affair is likely to become.
Pope to issue a motu proprio on papal conclaves
It was therefore good to read in today’s La Stampa's Vatican Insider that Pope Benedict XVI will issue a motu proprio tomorrow, in which he will clarify certain matters concerning the laws surrounding papal conclaves. It is expected that the Pope will declare – in a text apparently composed by Archbishop Giuseppe Sciacca (who recently celebrated Mass at the Brompton Oratory, see the photos section here) – that there is nothing to stop the next Conclave being convened sooner than the required 15 to 20 days after the See of Rome becomes vacant. The Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, which was published by John Paul II, stipulates this specific number of days between a sede vacante and a conclave, but it was written with the presumption that popes normally die in office.
According to the Italian newspaper, it is highly likely that the cardinals present in Rome on 1 March – and most, if not all, of those who are healthy will be there then – will vote on the date of the Conclave that day. Taking into consideration that the men responsible for electing the new pope will need a few days to organise themselves and meet for important discussions, Vatican Insider suggests that the Conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor will begin on 9 March. My suspicion is that, due to the whirl of scandals and media-hype currently engulfing the Church, the cardinals will actually wish to meet sooner – possibly only about a week after the abdication, 7 March. This will mean that we may have a new pope by about 10 or 11 March – it’ll probably be a longish Conclave, as there are no clear runners for the papacy.
Please God, we will have a new Pope in only about two weeks from now. We do not want a long interregnum – there's enough chaos as it is! Also, for those who might be planning on fasting throughout the time that the See of Rome is vacant, the shorter the interregnum the better -- long fasts can be physically and mentally challenging, I guess! (I am not a man given to fasts, as my girth demonstrates!)
God listens to earnest and humble prayers – so if we are serious about our love for the Church we need to pray, fast, and make sweet offerings of love before the Throne of the Most High ... let's not let this time of grace pass us by!