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Benedict’s resignation as the Bishop of Rome goes into effect on 28 February 2013 at 8:00pm (Rome time; 2pm EST). Thereafter and until the election of a new Supreme Pontiff, Mother Church is in a period called sede vacante. This, however, does not mean nothing happens in the Church and that no one is in-charge.

The following are some of the key persons leading Holy Church.

  • The Apostolic Penitentiary Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, 74, does not cease working like many of the other offices of the Holy See and Vatican because the work of the Penitentiary pertains to the forgiveness of sins and matters of questions of conscience from the faithful. Sins and justice need to be forgiven. De Castro and his coworkers will remain in office.
  • The Chamberlain (the Camerlengo), Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, SDB, 78, who is the current Secretary of State, will see to the management of the temporal goods of the Church. Bills need to be made and leadership provided. He functions in this capacity during the sede vacante. Moreover, he will also head the Congregational meetings, that is, the daily meetings of the College of Cardinals discussing the needs of the Church. The cardinals will hear a “state of the Church.”  During the conclave, Bertone will announce the result of every ballot, ascertaining the votes required for election. Cardinal Bertone will show the new pope to the papal apartments and hand him the keys. The Chamberlain will be assisted by Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca , 57, from Catania, who functions as a legal consultant.
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  • Any liturgical responsibilities of the Petrine Office during the sede vacante will be handled by the archpriests of the papal basilicas: Agostino Cardinal Vallini, 72, for the Lateran Basilica, Angelo Cardinal Comastri, 69, for the Vatican Basilica, James Cardinal Harvey, 63, for the Basilica of Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls and Santos Cardinal Abril y Castelló, 77, for the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
  • The Papal Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, 48, a priest of Genova, with the assistance of the Papal Almoner, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, 61, will prepare the sacred Liturgies. When the cardinals have enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave, taken the oath, it is Marini who will ask all but the cardinals to leave the Chapel by calling “Extra omnes!”.
  • As the primary title of the pope is “Bishop of Rome,” pastoral concern for the Diocese of Rome needs attention and that will Vicars-General, Agostino Cardinal Vallini, for Rome, and Angelo Cardinal Comastri for the Vatican City State.
  • Giovanni Cardinal Battista Re, 79, will take the place of the Cardinal-Dean, Cardinal Sodano, who is too old to participate, by announcing the start of the first ballot. Sodano had been the Secretary of State. It is Cardinal Re who will also ask the newly elected Bishop of Rome if he accepts his election. Cardinal Bertone will step in as needed.
  • James Cardinal Harvey, a new cardinal, and from Milwaukee, WI, is the junior cardinal-deacon. The junior cardinal guards the doors; he locks the doors of the Sistine Chapel before the balloting.
  • Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, 69, is the College of Cardinals’ Protodeacon (the senior cardinal-deacon) andHabemus papam.jpg will be THE face everyone in the world will zero-in on when the public announcement of the election is made. He will say:

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam! Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum [First Name] Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [Last Name], qui sibi nomen imposuit [Papal Name].

But let’s not be too sentimental, the Holy Spirit will govern the Church even without a pope, and Holy Spirit does not go on vacation.