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The Pope (Bishop of Rome or Vicar of Christ) is the bishop and patriarch of Rome, the supreme spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Rite[?] Catholic churches. He is also the head of the Vatican City state, sometimes called the Holy See. Before 1870, the pope ruled over a large section of the centre of Italy known as the Papal States. His office and jurisdiction is known as the Papacy.

The pope traditionally resides in Vatican City, an independent state in the centre of Rome. Between 1309 to 1378 the seat of the Pope was moved from Rome to Avignon. (see Avignon Papacy)

Catholics believe that Jesus founded the Church, which is a word which means the community of disciples. Catholics believe Jesus founded his Church on St. Peter when he said, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18). Further, Catholics believe Jesus gave Peter the "keys of the Reign of Heaven" (Matthew 16:19: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." See also Luke 22:31: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers").

Peter is considered by Roman Catholics to be the first visible head of the Christian church and the first pope.

The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) defined the dogma of papal infallibility whereby the pope, when he speaks ex cathedra, does not have the possibility of error on any matter of faith and dogma.

The term antipope refers to individuals whom some have claimed to be popes, but who have never been recognized as such by the Roman Catholic Church. Their stories often reflect tumultuous periods in church history.

Death and Election

Currently when the pope dies the rule of the papacy passes to the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, a cardinal appointed by the Pope. The Camerlengo removes the Ring of the Fisherman from the pope's right hand; it is later broken at the meeting to decide the new pope. The body rests in state for a number of days before being placed in a special coffin and interred in the crypt in some leading church or cathedral. All twentieth century popes have been buried in St. Peter's Basilica. It is expected however that when the current pope, John Paul II dies, he will be buried in his native Poland. There follows a nine day period of mourning, novemdialis.

Currently the pope is elected for life by a vote of those cardinals who are under the age of 80. Initially the pope was chosen by those senior clergy residing near Rome. In 1059 the election was restricted to cardinals and in 1179 the individual vote of all electors was equalised. However the potential choice is considerable, almost anyone —even lay persons— can be elected, although Urban VI was the last non-Cardinal elected. If a lay person or other non-bishop is elected, then the Dean of the College of Cardinals ordains him a bishop before he assumes office.

In France the Second Council of Lyons[?] opened on May 7, 1274 to regulate the election of the pope. Two additional conditions were introduced; the cardinals had to meet within ten days of the pope's death, and they had to remain in seclusion until a new pope was chosen. This was prompted by the three year wait to replace Clement IV who died in 1268. By the mid 1500s the electoral process was roughly equivalent to the current one. The time between the death and the election has been changed; it must occur within twenty days, but must begin not less than fifteen days after the death.

The actual vote used to take place by one of three methods: acclamation, committee or plenary vote. The most simple was a unanimous voice vote called acclamation (last occurred in 1621). There was also an option of the selection of a smaller committee to make a decision. The third most common is by a plenary vote of all cardinals entitled to vote, by means of a ballot. However in a major revision of the code of procedure, Pope John II abolished the option of selection by committee or by acclamation. Thus all subsequent popes can only be electd by full vote of the College of Cardinals.

The meeting of cardinals, the conclave, is called by the Sacred College of Cardinals and almost always takes place in the Vatican, with voting in the Sistine Chapel. The conclave is so named because once the twenty day limit is reached all the present eligible electors are theoretically locked away from the rest of the world (cum clavi). By lot three cardinals are assigned to collect the votes of non-attendees (through illness), three more are assigned to count the votes and a further three to review the count. The ballot papers (usually marked "Eligo in summum Pontificem Rev.mum D. Meum D. Card...") are distributed; each cardinal writes his choice upon the paper, pledges aloud he is electing "one whom under God I think ought to be elected" and deposits his ballot into a container. If there is no overall winner the cardinals vote again immediately, and then possibly again and again until there is a clear choice. Until 1996 the required majority was two-thirds; now if the meeting is still deadlocked after twelve days a simple majority rule can be invoked. To communicate some of the process to the waiting world the ballots, once counted, are burned: black smoke (sfumata, created using straw) indicates the vote was not decisive, and white smoke indicates a new pope has been chosen.

When the pope has been chosen he is asked by the Dean of the College of Cardinals to confirm his acceptance, and then the name he chooses is announced. Since 535 upto and including John II the pope has had the opportunity to be called by a name other than that given at birth and the practice has become standard. The selection is then announced from a balcony over St. Peter's Square, initially with the words "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam."

The election process was last altered in 1996 by John Paul II in Universi Dominici Gregis.

The Latin term sede vacante (empty seat) is normally applied to the period between the death of one pope and the election of his successor. This term has been adapted to identify a group of modern schismatics. See sedevacantism.

The Title The word pope (post-classical Latin papa, father), is an ecclesiastical title now used to designate the head of the Roman Catholic Church and several Patriarchs of eastern Orthodoxy, such as the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In the 4th and 5th centuries it was frequently used in the west of any bishop, but in the Catholic church it gradually came to be reserved to the bishop of Rome, becoming his official title. In the East, on the other hand, the Patriarch of Alexandria uses it as as his historical title.

As a popular term it was applied to priests, and at the present day, in the Greek Church and in Russia all the priests are called pappas, which is also translated "pope". Even in the case of the sovereign pontiff the word pope is officially only used as a less solemn style: though the ordinary signature and heading of briefs is, e.g. "Pius P.P.X.", the signature of bulls is Pius episcopus ecclesiae catholicae, and the heading, Pius episcopus, servus servorum Dei, this latter formula going back to the time of Saint Gregory the Great. Other styles met with in official documents are Pontifex Maximus, Summus pontifex, Romanus pontifex, Sanctissimus, Sanctissimus pater, Sanctissimus dominus noster, Sanctitas sua, Beatissimus pater, Beatitude sue; while the pope is addressed in speaking as Sanctitas vestra, or Beatissime pater. In the middle ages is also found Dominus apostolicus (cf. still, in the litanies of the saints), or simply Apostolicus.

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