The Vatican just announced the papal conclave will convene Tuesday afternoon, March 12. The last cardinal arrived very recently, allowing for four to five days of prayer and group discussions between the participants prior to the actual balloting.
The cardinals will discuss the role of priests in the Church and specific candidates for the papacy who exemplify that role. Many religious orders in the Church traditionally have required their initiates to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The vows and what they impose are ordered by the religious orders (or institutes), and are approved by the Vatican. A vow of poverty usually requires the initiate to forswear all but the most basic personal possessions and lead a simple life. The vows vary from order to order, and parish priests are usually exempted from a strict vow of poverty, but are encouraged to lead a simple existence, so as not to interfere with delivering Christ’s message and the message of the Old Testament.
Chastity means a direct personal service to God and to the Church and its mission. As described in the Roman Catholic Catechism, the requirement of chastity is for religious “who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.’ Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to ‘the affairs of the Lord’, they give themselves entirely to God and to men.”
The Code of Canon Law defines obedience as:
“The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ who was obedient even unto death requires a submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God when they command according to the proper constitutions.”
People who seek admittance to religious orders must take these vows to become priests, monks or nuns. People who break any of the vows are disciplined and sometimes excommunicated. Vows are made freely, but are required for initiation into the priesthood or a religious order. Generally speaking, these vows are non-negotiable once made.
In recent years, the Church has allowed surrogates to assist during the Mass. These assistants help with various functions during the daily Masses, marriage ceremonies, baptisms, funerals, and also in maintaining the physical buildings of the parish. In addition, they assist with outreach into the community.
The overall mission of the Church is best summed up by Pope Emeritus Benedict when he called for re-proposing the Gospel “to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.”
Just what are the teachings of Christ? They are found throughout the Gospels. Examples are Christ recognizing the faith of the blind man while returning the gift of sight. Other pronouncements include: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. Jesus told the rich man to lay down his wealth and follow Him in order to secure a place in the afterlife. The rich man went away.
During the conclave, the cardinals will cast a series of ballots to select a new pope. Members of the conclave could put forward a popular candidate who might prevail early. Otherwise, the cardinals will be searching for a candidate who best exemplifies all of the above. There may be an emphasis on the candidate’s philosophy, pastoral work and writing in the area of the new Evangelization.