Sunday 8 May 2022

Conclave Step by Step through the Papal Interregnum - Monsignor Charles Burns OBE - CTS Explanations

Conclave Step by Step through the Papal Interregnum
Monsignor Charles Burns O.B.E.
ISBN 9781784691882
CTS Booklet EX48

I stumbled across this booklet while researching The Election of a Pope by Charles Burns. This particular volume looks like a scaled down version of his earlier works, specifically for the Conclave in 2013.  This volume was made available as a PDF for download on the Catholic Truth Society’s website. And checking the Way Back Machine it was available for several years. The download was available from 2013 through 2017. The other volume The Election of a Pope went through a few editions I found versions from 1963 (H456), 1997 (H500) 2009 (Classics 341). Those three editions are much more extensive than this volume. But this volume deals specifically with a conclave after a pope steps down, and is very concise and to the point. It should also be pointed out that the ISBN listed in the PDF was reused by the CTS for a later volume.

The chapters in this volume are:

Why Such Interest?
Death of a Pope
The Grand Electors
Before the Conclave
The Conclave Begins
Voting for the Next Pope
Casting Their Votes
Counting the Votes
Double Checking
Some Statistics
Election Archived

The introduction of this booklet states:

“The Papacy is a dynasty: it claims to be an unbroken succession of Popes, onwards from the Apostle Peter in the first century of the Christian era, so is possibly the oldest institution surviving continuously to the present day.

Unlike royal dynasties, however, the next in line to the papacy is unknown until he is elected to the office. The election of a new Pope arouses interest worldwide, not only within the Roman Catholic Church, but indeed with many of other faiths and of none.

The public gaze will soon be focused on the Vatican, where the Cardinals assemble in seclusion to decide the succession. For centuries this has been termed the Conclave, derived from the Latin words cum and clave, meaning ‘under-lock-and-key’. Literally they are locked in and others are locked out.”

This is not a long volume. I read it over a large mug of tea in a single afternoon sitting in the sun. It was a very engaging read. Once I started I could hardly put it down. On the title page we are informed that:

“A basic outline prepared by  
Monsignor Charles Burns O.B.E.
Residential Canon of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican Ecclesiastical Adviser at the British Embassy to the Holy See”

Taking a quick look at the other volume I have the writing style is quite different. This volume was written with a specific conclave in mind. And in fact Several roles for the conclave, and of leadership at the time are named, but almost always in brackets so that it could be read again with future conclaves in mind. For example:

“Only the following remain in office for the duration of the vacancy and may exercise their ordinary prescribed faculties: the Dean [Angelo Sodano] of the College of Cardinals and the Camerlengo [Tarcisio Bertone] to organise the Conclave. The Major Penitentiary [Manuel Monteiro de Castro], the Vicar of Rome [Agostino Vallini], the Archpriest of St Peter’s and Vicar General of Vatican City [Angelo Comastri], for matters concerning  the pastoral care of souls [14]. The Substitute [Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu] of the Secretariat of State, the Secretary [Archbishop Dominique Mamberti] for Relations with States, the Secretaries of the Curial Departments and the papal Almoner [Archbishop Guido Pozzo] also remain in office, all answerable to the College of Cardinals [20, 22]. The Papal Representatives abroad continue at their diplomatic missions and their accreditations do not lapse [21].”

The numbers in square brackets:

“The norms for a valid election to the papacy are set out in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, dated 22 February 1996, published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. The numbers given here within brackets refer to the relevant paragraphs to facilitate cross-checking with the official authentic text. The numbers given here within brackets refer to the relevant paragraphs to facilitate cross-checking with the official authentic text.”

I highlighted a few passages while reading this volume. Some of them are:

“The death of a Pope, whether sudden and unpredicted, or preceded by infirmity and advanced age, does not cause a crisis, nor would his free and clearly expressed resignation, which does not require to be accepted and confirmed by anyone. In both these circumstances, procedures are in place to replace him. There are, however, no procedures for deposing an impaired, mentally deranged, senile, comatose, or a manifestly immoral one. The papacy is vacated only by demise or renunciation.”

“The rules are the following and must be implemented and adhered to closely by the Grand Electors, it being their right and duty to ensure this due process of Canon Law by their personal oath of commitment.”

This booklet was a wonderful read. The writing was clean and crisp. It was informative, and even entertaining. I could not put it down. On a side note I have tracked down a copy of the 1997 edition and plan to read it soon. Back to this volume could easily be modified for the next papal election as all that would need to be updated are the names associated with specific titles, and the number of Electors at the time. I believe it would be of great interest if the CTS could make a PDF available again prior to the next election. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Monsignor Charles Burns:
The Election of a Pope

Books in the CTS Explanations Series:
Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Does the Church oppress Women?
Organ Transplant – and the definition of Death
Be Yourself An Explanation of Humility - William Lawson SJ
Gene Therapy – and Human Genetic Engineering
Prenatal tests
Gift of life and Love
Cloning and Stem Cell Research
Contraception and Chastity
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Spirits, Mediums & The Afterlife

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