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The Conclave


With the announcement of the death of Pope John Paul II, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, undertook the duties special to that office during the Vacancy of the Holy See, convening the General Congregations of the Cardinals, which during the Interregnum are responsible for preserving the spiritual and material patrimony of the Holy See. As Dean he was the principal celebrant at the Solemn Funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II at 10 a.m. on Friday 8 April 2005. This Mass, at which the body of the the deceased Pontiff was present, and from which he was taken to the Vatican Grottoes for burial, was the first of the official Novendiales, nine days of funeral rites for the Pope. At that Mass, the Dean of the College gave a homily which beautifully situated the life of Karol Wojtyła in the context of the Lord's words to Peter, "Follow me!"

On Sunday, 17 April, the day following  the conclusion of the Novendiales, the Cardinals moved into their conclave quarters in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, into two-room suites assigned by lot. They all met together for dinner in Sunday evening.

On Monday morning, 18 April 2005, the Cardinals processed into St. Peter's Basilica at 10 a.m. to celebrate the Mass "For the election of the Supreme Pontiff." As Dean of the College, Cardinal Ratzinger was again the principle celebrant and homilist. His insightful homily on mature faith probably confirmed the sense among his brother Cardinals that he was the man to lead the Church after Papa Wojtyła.

Later on Monday, at 4:30 p.m., 115 cardinals, from 52 countries and five continents, processed from the Hall of Blessings to the Sistine Chapel. Taking their places, the Cardinal Dean read the formula of their oath, after which each Cardinal, stating his name and placing his hand on the Gospel, pronounced the words: 'I promise, pledge and swear.' For the first time in history they did this before a worldwide TV audience. After the order "Extra omnes (everyone out)" by the Master of Ceremonies at 5:25 p.m.,  the Chapel was closed and the first Conclave of the Third Millennium, was begun. Only the Master of Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik remained for the meditation. Once that had finished they, too, left the Sistine Chapel.

After a time the Cardinals took their first vote for the 264th Successor to St. Peter. This single ballot did not result in an election, and was therefore announced by black smoke at 8:04 p.m. Monday evening (2:04 Eastern).

At 7.30 a.m. Tuesday, the concelebration of Mass took place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. At about 9 a.m., the Cardinals were in the Sistine Chapel to resume the Conclave. They recited Lauds prior to voting. The two votes of Tuesday morning produced no election, and were burned, signaling the result by black smoke. This occurred 11:52 a.m. (5:52 a.m. Eastern).

On the afternoon of Tuesday 19 April 2005, voting began about 4 p.m. The first ballot, the fourth of the Conclave, elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and Prefect during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Following his acceptance and the choice of his name, Benedict XVI, the election was announced to the world at 5:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. Eastern) by white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Burning at first gray, but never truly black, there was some confusion in the Square. However, the ever more profuse, and ever more clearly white,  smoke was confirmed about 6:04 by the joyful ringing of the great bells of St. Peter's Basilica,  announcing to the city, and through the international media to the world, the election of a pope.

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