‘Habemus Papam’ Tackles Historic Time in the Church



On Tuesday, March 5, 2013, Monsignor Quinn held a discussion regarding the process of selecting a new pope.

The event, “Habemus Papam,” literally translating to “We have a pope,” was held in the Ignatius Loyola Room and was attended by students of various religious backgrounds. These students expressed a common interest in learning about and discussing this historic time for the Roman Catholic Church.

The papal transition following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is already in progress. It is speculated that a conclave will be announced in the next month. 115 cardinals are charged with choosing the next pope, and in the past have taken anywhere from a few days to three years to do so. The copious amount of media attention that the resignation has received in the past few weeks is due to the fact that the resignation is unparalleled—a pope has not resigned from this office for over six centuries.

In his discussion, Quinn brought up the canon of Christian law, which has surprisingly little written in it about the election of the pope.

Usually, elections follow the death of the previous pope; thus some of the laws regarding election include informing the public of the pope’s death and holding a funeral before the new pope can be elected. Msgr. Quinn described pope Benedict’s resignation as a gift to the church because the election will not be surrounded by sadness.

During the discussion, many students expressed excitement at the fact that we are witnessing history in the making.

Robert Raffaele, FCRH ’15 expressed great interest in attending the event.

“I think it’s a historical time in the church and I think that talking about it is a way for us all to learn about it together,” Raffaele said.

A portion of the discussion focused on the name of the pope.

Each cardinal who is appointed to the position chooses a new name for himself, usually taken from a previous pope whom he wishes to emulate. Pope Benedict XVI may change his name to Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus or simply return to his previous name, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Quinn, however, speculates that he will choose the name Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus in order to express his retirement.

The media attention that the resignation has garnered will undoubtedly continue until the new election.  Quinn, however, reminded the audience of the evolutionary nature of the church — rules change based on the situation. He also stressed the humanity of the Pope throughout his lecture.

Gabrielle Vella, GSB ’15, another student in attendance, agreed with this point.

“The pope’s resignation reminds people worldwide of his human nature,” Vella said. “He has blessed the church with his honesty and sincerity and taught not only Catholics, but also people of all religions, a lesson.”

Quinn closed by reminding the audience that a cardinal who goes into the election expecting to become a Pope will not become one, stressing the importance of humility for whoever may become the next Pontiff.