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Vatican spokesman briefs reporters on papal interregnum

Catholic World News - February 22, 2013

At a February 22 briefing for reporters, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, explained the canonical implications of Pope Benedict’s resignation, and the governance of the Holy See during the days before a new Pontiff is elected.

When Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect, Father Lombardi said, the Holy See will be vacant. During this sede vacante period, he said, the ruling principle of canon law is “sede vacante nihil innovetur--There is to be no innovation during a vacancy.”

The day-to-day administration of the Vatican during the interregnum is done by the College of Cardinals, acting collectively. The cardinals will begin meeting in daily “congregations” on March 1, the day after the Pope’s resignations. Among their first decisions, the cardinals will set a date for the conclave that will elect the next Pope. The procedures for a conclave are set forth in the apostolic constitution Universit Dominici Gregis, issued by Pope John Paul II and amended in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI. The procedures require a 15-day waiting period between the time when the Holy See becomes vacant and the beginning of the conclave. However, Father Lombardi reminded reporters that Pope Benedict might issue a motu proprio amending the procedures and allowing for an earlier conclave.

Once the conclave begins, a two-thirds majority is required to elect the new Pontiff. If the voting remains inconclusive after 33 ballots, the cardinals’ choice will be limited to the two top vote-getters in the last round of voting.

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