Tomorrow morning it all begins. One hundred and fifteen electors, two thirds (77 votes) needed to elect the new pope.
The morning will begin with Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the altar which sits atop the burial place of the first pope, Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. The first prayer or Collect at that Mass will ask God the eternal shepherd who governs his flock with unfailing care to “grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to us show watchful care.”
Tomorrow afternoon a procession will form in the sixteenth century Pauline Chapel beneath a painting of Saint Peter being crucified upside down in martyrdom for the faith and then the electors will process to the Sistine Chapel singing the “Veni Creator Spiritus,” a ninth century hymn asking God to send his Holy Spirit into the hearts of the Cardinal electors.
Oaths will be taken, an address will be given by the eighty seven year old patristics scholar, Cardinal Prosper Grech. Then the doors will be closed and the first round of voting will take place.
If recent speculation is anywhere near the mark, the Cardinals will have much on their mind: reform of the Roman Curia, the sexual abuse crisis, getting people back to Church in certain western countries, and preaching to a post-modern world.
Which is why they will sing the song to the Holy Spirit on their way into the Sistine Chapel, the third verse of which reads: “infirma nostri corporis, virtute firmans perpeti,” or, loosley translated, “help the weakness of our bodies with your unfailing strength.”