April 19th 2005, the conclave had begun. Joseph Ratzinger was the Great Elector and presided over the conclave that was held shortly after the death of His Holiness John Paul II. The Conclave ended in two days and though there was a delay in the ringing of the bells, they rang fourteen minutes later confirming the election of the new Bishop of Rome- Joseph Ratzinger or more popularly known as Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church and the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Pope Benedict has successfully stunned the 21st century with his abdication and has ensured that the year2013 would definitely end up in the history books. Despite his public statement that it was incompetency of mind and body that led him to quit, papal abdications are rarer than blue moons and so, there has been much speculation on the underlying reason behind the resignation of His Holiness.
The story actually begins on 13th December 1294, when Pope Celestine V resigned from his post. One of his surviving edicts was his confirmation of the right of a pope to resign or abdicate. Unlike what many people believe quite a few popes have resigned through history. The last pope to have abdicated was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, his reason being to end the Western Schism or the Papal Schism where two men claimed to be the true pope… His abdication however, was over six hundred years ago and the funny thing we all know about history is that it tends to repeat itself.
On February 28th 2013 Pope Benedict XVI officially resigned and since then the Holy See has been facing Tempus Sede Vacante or ‘The Time of the Empty Seat’ referring to the empty papal office.
Benedict XVI will be now addressed as Pope Emeritus and continues to wear the white papal robes. He has retired to the newly renovated Mater Ecclesiae, a monastery as his retirement home.
The conclave began on March 12th 2013 at 4:45pm Central European Time, and the cardinals were sealed in within the walls of the Sistine Chapel sworn to secrecy owing to the Latin origin of the word ‘cum clave’ meaning with a key. By ancient Vatican law that holds till today any Catholic man who has been baptized can become pope but since the 1300s it has always been a fellow cardinal.
The successor of Benedict XVI was elected on March 13th 2013. A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is said to be the first non- European pope in 1,272 years. He is also the first Jesuit pope. The Islamic community welcomed his election as pope as they claimed this simple and humble man was a friend of the Islamic community. The conclave this year was expected to break after three days for the cardinals to rest if no pope had been elected but Pope Francis was elected on the second day itself and is the first pope to bear that name.
Tempus Sede Vacante has come to an end as the seventy – six year old Vicar of Christ has donned his papal robes and responsibilities. The Church has found their new leader and hopes that he leads the Catholic community in wisdom and love for years to come.