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Home : News : Pope Francis/Vatican
Cardinals receive book of rites, prayers, hymns to guide their work
Catholic News Service photo
Catholic News Service photo
The "Ordo Rituum Conclavis" (Rites of the Conclave) gives the prayers and rituals used for the conclave. The 343-page book is in Latin with Italian translations. It begins by noting that the election of a pope "is prepared for and takes place with liturg ical actions and constant prayer."

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — On the first day of their pre-conclave meetings, all of the cardinals were given a gold-embossed, green book of rites and prayers to accompany them as they enter the conclave, vote, elect a new pope and introduce him to the world.

The "Ordo Rituum Conclavis" (Rites of the Conclave) was the same used in 2005. In late February, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, told Catholic News Service the text would not undergo any significant modifications.

The book was prepared by Msgr. Marini's predecessor and approved by Blessed John Paul II in 1998.

The 343-page book with prayers in Latin and an Italian translation begins by noting that the election of a pope "is prepared for and takes place with liturgical actions and constant prayer."

The election of a pope, it said, "is of supreme importance in the life of the people of God in pilgrimage on earth."

The rites of the conclave begin with the public Mass "for the election of the Roman pontiff." The date for the celebration in St. Peter's Basilica will be known only once the cardinals decide when to start the conclave.

The Ordo calls for the Mass to begin with the antiphon from the Book of Samuel, "I will choose a faithful priest who shall do what I have in heart and mind."

Then, according to the book, the celebrant prays: "O God, eternal pastor, you who govern your people with a father's care, give your church a pontiff acceptable to you for his holiness of life and wholly consecrated to the service of your people."

The text even includes the prayers of the faithful: pleas that God would safeguard and protect his church; that the Holy Spirit would enlighten the cardinals; and that all humanity would form one family.

Because it was written to cover the normal circumstances of a papal transition, the prayers of the faithful include a request that God grant eternal rest to the soul of the deceased pontiff.

The Mass for the election of the pope is the only rite in the book to be celebrated publicly before the new pope is presented to the world.

The Ordo assumes the Mass will be celebrated in the morning and that the cardinals would gather again in the late afternoon in the newly restored Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, standing in for the 85-year-old Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the college, will tell the cardinals: "After having celebrated the divine mysteries, we now enter into conclave to elect the Roman pontiff. The whole church, united with us in prayer, invokes the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we elect a worthy pastor of the entire flock of Christ."

In a procession behind the cross, the cardinals walk into the Sistine Chapel singing a litany of saints of the East and West and a series of invocations to Christ with the refrain, "Save us, Lord."

Once the cardinals take their places in the chapel, the Book of the Gospels is placed in a worthy position so that it "presides over the celebrations and deliberations of the cardinals," the book says.

When everyone is in place, the cardinals chant the ancient invocation of the Holy Spirit, "Veni, Creator Spiritus."

Then Cardinal Re prays: "O Father, you who guide and protect your church, give your servants the spirit of intelligence, truth and peace, so that they strive to know your will and serve you with total dedication."

The cardinals then take an oath to "faithfully and scrupulously observe" the rules for electing a pope; each swears that if he is elected he will "faithfully fulfill the Petrine ministry as pastor of the universal church and will strenuously affirm and defend the spiritual and temporal rights as well as the freedom of the Holy See."

They also promise to keep everything having to do with the election secret.

When the last cardinal has placed his hand on the Book of the Gospels and sworn the oath, Msgr. Marini, as master of ceremonies, says: "Extra omnes," ordering all those not directly involved in the conclave out of the Sistine Chapel.

The only one who will remain will be the churchman the cardinals choose to lead them in a reflection on their responsibilities in electing a new pope.

After the meditation, the preacher and Msgr. Marini will leave the chapel.

Each day, the cardinals are to recite morning and evening prayer together and to concelebrate Mass. They are to listen to Scripture and have time for prayer before each ballot is cast and before the ballots are counted.

As each cardinal places his vote in the urn, he promises that his vote was cast for the candidate he believes deserves to be elected.

Each session ends with a brief prayer of thanksgiving and an invocation to Mary.

The newly elected pope will be asked by Cardinal Re, "Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?" The book gives no formula for the assent, nor does it recognize the possibility that the person elected will refuse. The second question asked is: "With what name do you wish to be called?"

If the elected man already is a bishop, once he accepts the office he "immediately is the bishop of the church of Rome, the true pope and head of the college of bishops; he acquires full and supreme power over the universal church," the Ordo says.

Immediately after the election, the cardinals are called to pray inside the Sistine Chapel. The liturgy includes a choice of two readings, either from the Gospel of Matthew -- "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" -- or from the Gospel of John where Jesus says to Peter, "Feed my sheep."

The cardinals approach the new pope and pay homage to him, then sing the "Te Deum" hymn of thanksgiving to God.

Then the senior cardinal deacon, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, goes to the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and declares to the public, "Habemus papam" (We have a pope).

For the cardinals' prayer choices, the Ordo contains an appendix of 241 pages of texts for Masses with a special focus on the Holy Spirit, the needs of the universal church, Mary, and Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Diocese of Rome.

The book also includes five full-length prayers for recitation before each vote and a brief version, as well as songs, including "Tu es Petrus" (You are Peter) for when the new pope is elected.

In addition, there is the text of the "Adsumus" prayer: "We are here before you, O Holy Spirit: We feel the weight of our weaknesses, but we are gathered in your name; come to us, help us, descend in our hearts. Teach us what we must do, show us the path to follow, accomplish that which you require of us."

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