Pope Said to Be ‘Fading Serenely’
Vol: 43 Issue: 1 Friday, April 1, 2005
One particular headline jumped out at me this morning; “Vatican Denies Pope in Coma”. Historically speaking, popes die much the same way that leaders of the former Soviet Union did.
First come denials he is gravely ill, then denials of a coma, and finally, denials of death reports until after the Vatican has had a chance to put its house in order and make preparations for electing a successor. So we appear to be at the ‘denial of coma’ stage, which can mean anything from the Pope ISN’T in a coma to the Pope is actually already dead.
One thing is certain — when the Vatican admits the Pope is fading, serenely or otherwise, it means the final death announcement isn’t far behind.
The world’s bookies have begun taking odds on who will succeed Pope John Paul II — another sure sign that his end is near. Currently, odds makers give Italian cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi the best shot at 2.75 to 1.
In order, the top six contenders, according to the bookies, are, Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy), Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Francis Arinze (Nigeria), Joseph Ratzinger (Germany), Jean-Marie Lustinger, (France) and Claudio Hummes, (Brazil).
Once the current pope dies, what happens next? First a ‘conclave’ is assembled, made up of members of the Vatican College of Cardinals. The cardinals are sequestered during the voting process, and on the afternoon of the first day, only one round of balloting takes place.
If the first round fails to result in an election, the ballots are collected and burned, together with a chemical which produces dark smoke. The next day, there are four ballots, two in the morning and two again in the evening. After each, the ballots are again burned to produce dark smoke.
If no result is obtained within three days, the process is suspended for one day for prayer and an address by the senior Cardinal Deacon. After seven further ballots, the process may again be similarly suspended, with the address now being delivered by the senior Cardinal Priest.
If, after another seven ballots, no result is achieved, voting is suspended once more, the address being delivered by the senior Cardinal Bishop. After a further seven ballots, the cardinal electors may reduce the two-thirds majority requirement to a simple majority requirement.
The cardinals may also eliminate all candidates except the two who have received the greatest number of votes in the previous ballot; in this case as well, a simple majority suffices for an election.
Finally, when the College of Cardinals come up with a winning candidate, those ballots are burned with chemicals that produce a white smoke, serving notice on the world that the Church of Rome has a new Pope.
Inside the conclave, the newly elected Pope goes into a small room next to the Sistine Chapel called the ‘Room of Tears’. Inside, he finds white papal robes in three different sizes. The new Pope chooses the right sized robes, dresses, and returns to the conclave. On his return, the papal ring is placed on his finger, and each cardinal pays homage to the new Pope, who sits on a footstool near the altar.
The current Pope, John Paul, has been in office for twenty-six years, making him the fourth longest serving pope in the papacy’s long history. John Paul is the Vatican’s two-hundred and sixty-fourth pope.
Many Vatican watchers believe that is too long for a single pope to head the church, which suggests the next pope may be an ‘interim’ pope, much like Pope John XXIII, who was elected at age 80 in 1958. His papacy lasted only four years. He was replaced by a much-younger Giovanni Battista Montini, who reigned for fifteen years as Pope Paul VI.
While some Vatican-watchers believe it is time to elect a non-European pope (since the majority of Catholics are non-European), the Vatican is concerned that the church’s influence is waning in Europe, and that a European, but not an Italian, would be the best compromise candidate.
Particularly for an ‘interim’ pope while the Vatican formulates a long-term strategy.
Among the more interesting candidates for the papacy is Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustinger, Archbishop of Paris, who at 79, is about the right age for an ‘interim’ pope. What makes him so interesting is his background.
He started life as Aaron Lustiger. Now he is Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, prince of the Catholic Church, confidant of Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal Lustinger was born a Jew. His parents hid him with a Catholic family before being arrested and sent to Auschwitz. During the war, Aron converted to Catholicism at the age of fifteen and took the name Jean-Marie. It is said that Lustinger’s fondest wish is to heal the breach that exists between the Vatican and Israel.
If elected, Lustiger would be the first converted Jew to sit on the papal throne since the Apostle Peter, whom Catholics claim as the first pope.
The Scriptures indicate the false prophet will head an apostate counterfeit, global ‘Christian’ religion, but that he himself will be a Jew.
The papacy, as an official office, has existed since Pope Clement in the 4th century. From then until now, there has never been a Jewish candidate for the office.
Until this point, in this generation, when one of the leading contenders to replace an dying Pope is Jean Lustiger, a converted Jew.