Papal succession primer
Definitions and facts surrounding papal transitions offer a helpful guide to the events unfolding in Rome.
The papal succession is an important time of transition in the Roman Catholic Church. Here is a list of definitions and facts about the events now unfolding in Rome.
• College of Cardinals: A group of cardinals that provides for the election of the pope and that assists the pope in governing the universal church on matters of great importance. Only cardinals under age 80 are eligible to vote in papal elections. They are known as the cardinal electors, and their number is limited to 120.
• Conclave: The word has two meanings. It refers to the physical space where the cardinals meet to carry out the election of the new pope. Consistent with the word's Latin origin, cum clave, or “with a key,” the conclave has traditionally been a locked area to ensure the sequestration of the electors. The word “conclave” also has come to refer to the meeting of the cardinals at which a new pope is elected. Cardinals have met under an oath of secrecy to elect the each new leader of the Catholic Church since 1271.
• Sistine Chapel: Where the papal election takes place in total secrecy; it is the principal chapel of the Vatican Apostolic palace. It is famed for its frescoed walls by various artists, especially the ceiling and altar wall painted by Michelangelo.
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