At 5:00 am local time, 10:00 am EST, the Cardinals gathered in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica for a Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice, a special devotional Mass to begin the official start of the Conclave. Once the Mass has finished, the midday pranzo is served, and then the Cardinals will prepare to enter the 16th century Sistine Chapel by a formal procession. A total of 115 Cardinals will enter the secret Conclave to pray, deliberate, and vote for the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Why all the ceremony and ritual? The Mass is a celebration of our communion with our Heavenly Father. All eyes are on Him, whose will we pray be done in bringing about the next leader of the Catholic Church. Within the celebration of the Holy Mass, there is the grace that extends from the sacrament of the Eucharist. This grace is vital to bring us into a closer relationship with the divine. In order to center all thoughts and prayers upon the mission of the Conclave, it is necessary to focus spiritually on the Holy Spirit of God who will guide the process.
Once the Cardinals enter the Conclave, Catholics around the world will await the rising of smoke from the Chapel to indicate whether a Pope has been selected (white) or the votes continue (black). In the meantime, Catholics will pray for our next Pope. This is part of the “communion” that the Church teaches which connects us to one another and to heaven. It is essential that when a process involves our human faculties that we work even harder to place ourselves in Christ’s care. As Christians, we must “examine our thoughts, words, and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or turned away from him” wrote St. Gregory of Nyssa. Our thoughts must be directed toward the will of God, our words in prayers to Him, and our deeds aimed at Christian communion.
The Catholic Conclave begins today. Thousands of people have descended upon St. Peter’s Square to lift their hearts to heaven. By joining our prayers with the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, by focusing our thoughts and hearts toward praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we become part of the process. The Holy Spirit already knows the name of our next Pope, our prayers are directed toward revelation. Faith in Christ, in his Church, and in the prayerful process will guide the Cardinals as they begin to vote for the revelation of our next Pope.
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