why do we have a new pope

There are many misconceptions of the Catholic Faith. One such misconception that I encounter often with my Protestant brethren is the issue of a Pope. We are the only Church with a Pope, who is the successor of Peter, and speaks with infallibility when using the Chair of Peter. Many Protestants claim that this position is a man-made tradition without biblical basis. This rejection should come as no surprise since protest is the root of Protestantism and it was the authority of the Church, made most visible through the Pope, which was the impetus for the Protestant Reformation. However, the Bible is clear that Jesus not only set the foundation for the Roman Catholic Church but also set Peter as its leader, thus making him the first Pope of the church. In the Greek translation of the New Testament, Peter is Petros and rock is petra, being the feminine form for Peter.


However, in Aramaic, the actual language spoken by Jesus, the words for Peter and rock are the same, Kepha. Jesus is actually telling Peter that you are the same rock upon which the Church of Jesus will be built. In this moment (which is supported by many Gospel stories and in the book of Acts showing Peter as the leader and spokesman for the early church) Jesus grants Peter the role of leader for the Church when Jesus leaves the earth. Peter appoints bishops to the multiple regions of the Roman Empire. When Peter is crucified upside down for Christ, a successor to Peter was chosen by these bishops. Thus, the Catholic Church has continued this tradition of naming a new leader, or Pope, to continue the authority established by Jesus Himself. This tradition is what we refer to when we say that the Church is apostolic.


Furthermore, Jesus grants Peter the keys to the kingdom and informs him that whatever is bound by the Church on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. Even the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ s Church. For this reason, the Church as outlasted empires, wars, and attacks on her teaching for centuries. Our Church is unique in that we are the original Church of Jesus. We are blessed to be a part of this community and should praise God for giving us the Church to guide, nurture, teach, and love us. In return, we should become active in our Church community, learn its teaching, and commit ourselves to service as ways to respond to God s love and glorify him in our lives.
When a pope dies or resigns, the governance of the Catholic Church passes to the College of Cardinals.


Cardinals are bishops and Vatican officials from all over the world, personally chosen by the pope, recognizeable by their distinctive red vestments. Their primary responsibility is to elect a new pope. Following a vacancy in the papacy, the cardinals hold a series of meetings at the Vatican called general congregations. They discuss the needs and the challenges facing the Catholic Church globally. They will also prepare for the upcoming papal election, called a conclave. Decisions that only the pope can make, such as appointing a bishop or convening the Synod of Bishops, must wait till after the election. In the past, they made arrangements for the funeral and burial of the deceased pope. or process of electing a new pope.


In the past, 15 to 20 days after a papal vacancy, the cardinals gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for a Mass invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in electing a new pope. Only cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote in a conclave. They are known as the cardinal electors, and their number is limited to 120. For the conclave itself, the cardinal electors process to the Sistine Chapel and take an oath of absolute secrecy before sealing the doors. The cardinals vote by secret ballot, processing one by one up to Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment, saying a prayer and dropping the twice-folded ballot in a large chalice. Four rounds of balloting are taken every day until a candidate receives two-thirds of the vote. The result of each ballot are counted aloud and recorded by three cardinals designated as recorders.


If no one receives the necessary two-thirds of the vote, the ballots are burned in a stove near the chapel with a mixture of chemicals to produce black smoke. When a cardinal receives the necessary two-thirds vote, the dean of the College of Cardinals asks him if he accepts his election. If he accepts, he chooses a papal name and is dressed in papal vestments before processing out to the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. The ballots of the final round are burned with chemicals producing white smoke to signal to the world the election of a new pope. The senior cardinal deacon, currently French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, announces from the balcony of St. Peter's "Habemus Papam" ("We have a pope") before the new pope processes out and imparts his blessing on the city of Rome and the entire world.