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Quid est in nomine? Latin name is first clue to new pope's identity
Catholic News Service photo
Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez appears on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to announce,
Catholic News Service photo
Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez appears on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to announce, "Habemus papam" (We have a pope), and the name Joseph Ratzinger, in this April 19, 2005, file photo. That duty will fall to French Cardinal Jean-Lou is Tauran this time around. As senior cardinal deacon, he is honored with the task of announcing the name of the new pope in Latin.

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The first clue to the identity of the new pope will be the announcement of his first name — in Latin, in the accusative case.

If he is not the one chosen, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the top-ranked cardinal-deacon, will say, in Latin, "I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope: His most Eminent and Reverend Lordship, Lord ..." followed by the Latin version of the chosen cardinal's first name.

If Cardinal Tauran says, "Lord Odilonem" everyone would know the new pope was Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo. They would not have to wait for Cardinal Tauran to announce the new pope's last name.

But if he says "Lord Angelum," it would not necessarily mean the new pope was the media-touted Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan; there are three other Italian cardinals also named Angelo.
If the cardinal says "Ioannem," things would be much more complicated. Fifteen cardinals' names begin Juan, Jean or Giovanni, the equivalent of John.

Five cardinals' first names are variations of Iosephum (Joseph), five are named Franciscum (Francis) and five have names beginning Antonium (Anthony).

Only two are named after the apostle Peter, Petrum, and three after the apostle Paul, Paulum.

The 115 cardinals who will enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave include four named Georgium or George and three who would be called Carolum, like Blessed John Paul II, the former Karol Wojtyla.

There are limits to translation possibilities: Lithuanian Cardinal Audrys Juozas Backis of Vilnius would be called Audrys and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai would be either Bachara or Becharam.

When the Vatican's Office of Latin Letters is called upon to write a letter in Latin to one of the cardinals, the "Acta Apostolicae Sedis," the book of official acts of the Holy See, is the go-to place for which version of their name to use. The volumes for 1909 through the end of 2012 are online on the Vatican website.

Apparently, though, it is not always that easy. Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Isaac Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, has been referred to both as Basilium Clementem and Isaac.

It also is possible that Cardinal Tauran will not use the accusative case when he announces the name. He could say, "Marcus" instead of "Marcum" if the cardinals choose Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has been prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

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