Who Oversees the Church When a Pope Dies?

Answer Is in a 1996 Document Constitution

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The question over who oversees the Church in the absence of a pope was addressed in a 1996 document written by John Paul II.

Entitled «Universi Dominici Gregis,» the apostolic constitution states that the government is entrusted to «the College of Cardinals solely for the dispatch of ordinary business and of matters which cannot be postponed, for the preparation of everything necessary for the election of the new Pope.»

This task of the College of Cardinals «must be carried out in the ways and within the limits set down» in «Universi Dominic Gregis.»

«Consequently, those matters are to be absolutely excluded which, whether by law or by practice, come under the power of the Roman Pontiff alone or concern the norms of the election of the new Pope laid down in the present Constitution,» the document states.

John Paul II also established «that the College of Cardinals may make no dispositions whatsoever concerning the rights of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Church, much less allow any of these rights to lapse, either directly or indirectly, even though it be to resolve disputes or to prosecute actions perpetrated against the same rights after the death or valid resignation of the Pope.»

«During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, laws issued by the Roman Pontiffs can in no way be corrected or modified, nor can anything be added or subtracted, nor a dispensation be given even from a part of them, especially with regard to the procedures governing the election of the Supreme Pontiff,» states No. 4.

«Indeed,» John Paul II wrote, «should anything be done or even attempted against this prescription, by my supreme authority I declare it null and void.»

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