let the papal games begin….no spectators allowed!

conclave chimney

One of the most important events in the Catholic Church is about to take place, and we’re not invited.

Today, the scarlet and lace bedecked cardinals will solemnly process into the Sistine Chapel amid chants of Veni Creator Spiritus. Only Vatican photographers will be allowed to record the historical moment.

This will be followed by the decidedly unceremonious declaration of extra omnes, everyone out! Then the heavy doors of the chapel will be slammed shut and sealed to keep in the princes of the church, and keep out the great unwashed.

Okay, I admit I have issues around the whole question of exclusivity and secrecy surrounding the conclave process. (My next Prairie Messenger article addresses it, and will be available in tomorrow’s issue.)

Today, the reality of it all has hit me. Yes, I care who the next pope will be. I care about the future of our church. I’ve been following as much of the news as possible from the great coverage at the National Catholic Reporter to the Vatican Insider. Canada’s own Peter Mansbridge has many insightful and thoughtful commentaries over at the CBC. Last night he provided several in depth reports on the National. Of special interest is a tour of the Vatican given to Mansbridge and some other reporters, shown at around the 21 minute mark.

I feel sorry for all the reporters who have descended on St. Peter’s in these next few days. All the speculations have already been speculated. All rumours have been squeezed out of informant cardinals. A swift conclave will make their lives easier. A long, drawn out conclave will leave them suspended in the in between nothingness of limbo.  Today all they – and we – can do is sit and wait.

This time, like no other, shouts loudly of the deep divide between the leaders of the church and her people. Cardinals, with all the pomp of princes, will vote, dine and discuss, and vote some more. We will have no access to the progress of the elections. We will have no knowledge of who is being considered.

With the echo of extra omnes, everyone out! still ringing in our ears, all we can do is hope and pray. Our role in this great drama is to merely stand and wait for the first signs of smoke to come out of a chimney.