How Popes are elected

Essay by cheater1414 May 2006

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When a Pope dies,1 the "Cardinal Camerlengo" (Cardinal Chamberlain, known as the "Camerarius" in Latin) first verifies the death. Traditionally, this is done by striking the Pope's forehead gently thrice with a silver hammer while asking him, using his Baptismal name, if he is dead, e.g., "Karol Wojtyla, are you dead?" When there is no response from the dead Pope, the Camerlengo solemnly announces his death and removes the Fisherman's ring from the dead Pope's finger. This ring, along with the papal seal, are broken, and the Pope's bedroom and study are sealed up. The bronze doors of St. Peter's Basilica are closed, while its bells toll the death, and all the bells of Rome join in.

The Camerlengo (who is now in charge of the Church until a new Pope is elected) arranges the funeral. First, the Pope will lie in state in St. Peter's Basilica and will then be buried on either the 5th , 6th, or 7th day of the Novenendiales.

There will be a funeral Mass, to and from which his body -- placed in a cypress coffin -- will be borne by white-gloved "Gentlemen of His Holiness," lay Italian nobility who are members of families that have served such purposes throughout History.

His body will be put inside three coffins ultimately:

* the first made of cypress, signifying his humanity

* the second of lead and inscribed with a skull and crossbones. Inside this coffin the broken papal seal and documents describing his papacy are placed.

* the third made of elm, signifying dignity of the papal office and on which is placed a plaque indicating his name and the date of his pontificate

He is then interred in a crypt underneath St. Peter's Basilica. During the nine-day period of mourning, known as...