In this photo provided Friday, March 1, 2013 by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, at center with red skull cap, officially takes over the vacant See as camerlengo, chamberlain, before sealing Pope Benedict XVI's apartment, after Benedict left the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to resign Thursday, ending an eight-year pontificate shaped by struggles to move the church past sex abuse scandals and to reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
In this photo provided Friday, March 1, 2013, then Pope Benedict XVI is saluted by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, left, as leaves Piazza San Damaso inside the Vatican to board a car which will take him to a helipad where he will depart to the pontiff's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Benedict XVI left the Catholic Church in unprecedented limbo Thursday as he became the first pope in 600 years to resign, capping a tearful day of farewells that included an extraordinary pledge of obedience to his successor. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. the Vatican Secretary of State and Camerlengo, seals the apartment left by Pope Benedict XVI after he left the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to resign Thursday, ending an eight-year pontificate shaped by struggles to move the church past sex abuse scandals and to reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican took the first steps of governing a Catholic Church without a pope on Friday, making some ceremonial and practical moves to formalize the end of one pontificate and prepare for the conclave to start the next.
Benedict XVI’s 8 p.m. resignation Thursday opened what is known as the “sede vacante” or “vacant see” — the transition period between papacies when a few key Vatican officials take charge of running the church.
The dean of the College of Cardinals formally summoned his fellow “princes” of the church to Rome for an initial pre-conclave meeting on Monday — something of a formality given that many of them are already here. But in a letter Friday, Cardinal Angelo Sodano also made clear that the conclave date won’t be set until they have all arrived, meaning it may still be some time before a date is settled on.
Separately, the deputy to the camerlengo — who administers the Vatican during the transition — took symbolic possession of one of the papal basilicas in Rome. For obvious reasons, the camerlengo will not take possession of the main papal residence outside Rome — Castel Gandolfo — since that is Benedict’s current retirement home.
In one of his last acts as pope, Benedict loosened the rules on the time frame for the camerlengo to take possession of papal holdings, precisely to allow him to live out his first few months in retirement in what is an official papal residence.
Here are the top figures who will run the church in the coming days:
THE CAMERLENGO: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The camerlengo, or chamberlain, takes over the day-to-day running of the Holy See as soon as the papacy ends. He places the seal on the pope’s study and bedroom, and takes possession of the Apostolic Palace, “safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See” until a new pope is elected. On Thursday night, Bertone sealed the papal apartment, which will not be reopened until a new pope is elected.
Benedict in 2007 gave the camerlengo job to Bertone, 78, a natural choice, given that Bertone is currently the Vatican No. 2 as secretary of state and runs the Vatican bureaucracy anyway.
THE DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS: Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
The dean is the senior member of the College of Cardinals, the so-called “princes” of the church whose main task is to elect a pope. The dean oversees the pre-conclave meetings, at which the problems of the church are discussed, and has duties inside the conclave itself, including asking the newly elected pontiff if he accepts the job. But Sodano is 85 and cannot vote, so some of those duties will shift to the sub-dean.
THE MASTER OF LITURGICAL CEREMONIES: Monsignor Guido Marini.
The master of liturgical ceremonies runs the religious side of the conclave and the installation Mass for the new pope, all of them carefully choreographed rituals. He is by the side of the dean when the newly elected pope is asked if he accepts the election. And as the main witness and notary, he draws up the formal document certifying the new pope’s name and that he has accepted the job.
THE PROTO-DEACON: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
The proto-deacon’s main task is to announce to the world that a pope has been elected. He shouts “Habemus Papam!” (“We have a pope!”) from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square after the white smoke has snaked up from the Sistine Chapel chimney. He then introduces the new pope — in Latin — along with the name the pope has chosen.