VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Church is not concerned with only rules and regulations during a vacancy of the Holy See, but also with fostering a spiritual attitude.
In the apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” promulgated in 1996, John Paul II indicated not only the rules that will regulate the vacancy of the Apostolic See and the election of a new Pope, but also the spiritual attitude with which the Church must live that period.
“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and above all during the time of the election of the Successor of Peter,” says the text, “the Church is united in a very special way with her pastors and particularly with the cardinal electors of the supreme pontiff, and she asks God to grant her a new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence.”
John Paul II gave as the example “the first Christian community spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:14),” indicating that “the universal Church, spiritually united with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, should persevere with one heart in prayer.”
“Thus the election of the new Pope will not be something unconnected with the People of God and concerning the college of electors alone, but will be in a certain sense an act of the whole Church,” states the document.
The Holy Father wrote: “In all cities and other places, at least the more important ones, as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered to the Lord (see Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24), that he may enlighten the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand.”
The Holy Father also entrusted a mission to the cardinals over eighty years of age, enabling them to “take part in the preparatory meetings of the conclave, in conformity with the norms set forth below.”
“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and especially during the election of the Supreme Pontiff, they in particular should lead the People of God assembled in the patriarchal basilicas of Rome and in other churches in the dioceses throughout the world, supporting the work of the electors,” states the document.
The text says that the whole Church, “with fervent prayers and supplications to the Holy Spirit,” should ask on behalf of the College of Cardinals the ability to “make their choice before God alone and with concern only for the ‘salvation of souls, which in the Church must always be the supreme law.'”