I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
The Conclave, a congregation of Cardinals who will elect the successor of Benedict XVI, will meet within a few days. The word Conclave stems from the Latin “with key” because the electors were locked up in a secluded venue to avoid outside influences on the election process. The Cardinals are still not allowed to have contact with the outside world, they are not allowed to have cell phones, access to internet, watch television, listen to radio or read newspapers while the Conclave is in session. The venue is at the Sistine Chapel and the Cardinals are lodged within the Vatican and may not leave during the process. The first Conclave took place in 1241 and the rules have changed but utmost ‘privacy’ has always been a prime feature. Cardinals over 80 are not allowed to participate, so there are 119 Cardinals who qualify as electors and about 114 are expected to attend. A two-thirds vote is required to elect a pope and election rounds are repeated as long as this result has not been achieved. The ballots are secret and the ballot slips are burned after each ballot. Black smoke from a provisional chimney signals no decision and white smoke conveys the message that a new pope has been elected. The smoke is the first message to onlookers at St. Peter’s Square, followed by the ringing of the bells of St. Peter’s Cathedral as a Cardinal appears on the balcony to announce: “Habemus papam” – “We have a pope”. We pray for God’s blessing on the Conclave and our new pope.
On March 13, 2013, shortly after 7 pm, white smoke started bellowing from the chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel as pilgrims gathered at Saint Peter’s Square and millions of television viewers waited in anticipation to know the name of the man who had been chosen to become the 266th successor of Saint Peter. A few minutes after 8 pm the Camerlingo announced from Saint Peter’s balcony: “Habemus papam“ – “We have a Pope”. It was a historic moment. The 115 cardinals of the Conclave elected Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the first Jesuit and the first non-Western European Pope in the church's 2000-year history. Cardinal Bergoglio appeared on the balcony soon after and greeted the faithful with “Bona sera” – “Good evening” and asked them to pray for him. Everyone on the square and millions in front of their television sets prayed Our Father and Hail Mary – it was a moving moment. With other informal gestures, he referred to himself as coming from the other end of the world, called for brotherhood within the Catholic Church and suggested setting on a road of peace. By choosing the name Francis, he set a signal to his commitment to the poor linking his papacy with Saint Francis of Assisi who devoted his life to helping the poor.
Jorge Bergoglio was born to a poor Italian immigrant family in Argentina in 1936. The son of a railway worker, he studied chemistry, joined the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits and was ordained a priest in 1969. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he fought for social justice, often confronted politicians, and was a pastoral man who lived an ascetic life in a small apartment instead of a palace, used public transportation instead of a chauffeured limousine, visited hospitals and prisons and cooked his own meals. Pope Francis is the first pontiff to come from the Americas, from South America, a continent where 40 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live. We pray for God’s blessing on Pope Francis’ papacy.
Tamás Meggyes, Vanessa Hansen