Papal process explained: What led to Pope Francis’ election?

Kailyn Gallagher, Crier staff

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Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina, was elected to be the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13. He took a name that is different than others that have preceded him; Pope Francis. No other pope has taken this name; Saint Francis of Assisi was a servant to the poor and a lover of nature.

Prior to the election the cardinals gather to discuss the needs of the church to help determine which cardinal is best suited for the job. Though it is not definitive what was discussed, Sister Maurine Sullivan offered what topics she thought would be discussed.

“I would think the cardinals probably listed various crises facing the church at this time: the clergy sexual abuse problem, the scandal over “Vatileaks”…the fact that some highly confidential information was leaked to the press in Italy…the religious illiteracy of many church members today, the growing lack of trust that church members are experiencing with church hierarchy, and the problems with those involved in the Vatican bureaucracy.”

The voting process during the conclave consists of four votes a day. The cardinals vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon; though all the cardinals are included in the discussion before hand, only the cardinals 80-years-old or younger actually vote. For a cardinal to become pope he must have two-thirds of the total vote. This election, that meant 77 votes for one person, in fact any baptized, Roman Catholic man can be elected pope; generally someone already in the conclave is chosen.

The voting continues at four times a day until one person receives the needed number of votes. The elections can become lengthy if a general agreement cannot be reached. The votes are cast on paper ballots and burned in a stove which produced wither black or white smoke. The white smoke indicates that a pope has been elected.

Over the next few weeks the new pope will settle into his new responsibilities and meet with many people who work and live in the Vatican.

Gaining a new pope can have a large impact on the church and its members. Sister Maurine Sullivan gave an example of a pope who made a lasting change in the history of the church.

“In 1958, at the conclave after the death of Pope Pius XII, the cardinals elected Cardinal Angelo Roncalli. He took the name of John XXIII. He would turn 77 in a few weeks after being elected and the cardinals believed he would probably be something of an interim pope, a placeholder, so to speak. To the shock and surprise of the whole world, three months after his election, Pope John announced that he was convening an ecumenical council – Vatican II…a council which would have a profound impact on the life of the church. So, popes can play a major role in the church.”

With Pope Francis, the controversy is how his views on same-sex marriage will affect the members of the church. Since in recent years same-sex marriage has become a topic that is more openly talked about, along with 11 states in the Unites States that have legalized it, how will having a church leader opposed to it affect the people and view on the church?

Having a new pope, or change of any kind within the church, can make one more aware of their beliefs.

Lastly, Sister Maurine Sullivan said, “I think for those of us who are members of the church – getting a new pope can be a moment of ‘revisiting, rethinking’…it can be a moment of reform for the members. Often we become complacent in our faith and a papal election can be like a ‘wake-up’ moment when we think about the church, what it means to us, [and] how we live out the life of faith in the church.”

Pope Francis’s official installment mass was held on Tuesday, March 19.

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