White smoke began billowing out of the chimney of the St. Peter’s Basilica at approximately 7:06 p.m. local time, meaning the Catholic Church has a new Pope who will lead the pro-life church and succeed Pope Benedict XVI. They reached a consensus on a candidate in the second round of balloting Wednesday afternoon.
The following report comes from Vatican Radio:
This means that at least two thirds, or 77 of the 115 cardinals gathered in conclave since Tuesday afternoon are united in their support for the candidate who has now become the 265th successor of St Peter.
As the cheering crowds wait eagerly in St Peter’s Square, the new pontiff is changing into the traditional white vestments in what is called the Room of Tears. After that, he returns to the Sistine Chapel where each of the Cardinal electors kneels to offer a sign of homage and obedience to their new Holy Father. Following that ritual, the new Pope will move to the Pauline Chapel to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Shortly after that, the senior cardinal deacon, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran will appear between the red curtains of the central balcony on St Peter’s Basilica to proclaim the famous Latin words ‘Habemus Papam’, revealing the identity of the new pontiff and the name that he has chosen.
The new pope is expected to appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica within an hour, after a church official announces “Habemus Papum” – “We have a pope” – and gives the name of the new pontiff in Latin. French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauranis expected to announce the new Pope.
Reports indicated the new Pope is stopping for moment of prayer in Pauline Chapel before first appearance to the waiting world outside.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he told the cardinals. “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
Pope Benedict has been considered a hero for pro-life advocates due to his consistent record of advancing the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church.
Earlier this year, in his annual address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corp accredited to the Holy See, Pope Benedict expressed concern over ongoing efforts to expand legalized abortion and destroy innocent life.
Pope Benedict also criticized the recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision that struck down a Costa Rican law that prohibited in vitro fertilization by redefining when life begins and ruling the embryo does not have the legal status of “person”.
At the same time, I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both. In this area, the recent decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding in vitro fertilization, which arbitrarily redefines the moment of conception and weakens the defence of unborn life, is also a source of concern.
Pope Benedict also noted how “human rights” is being used to liberalize policy that is self-centered and self-seeking.
Sadly, especially in the West, one frequently encounters ambiguities about the meaning of human rights and their corresponding duties. Rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others, and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs. To be authentic, the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in their personal and communitarian dimensions.
In his annual message for the World Day of Peace Jan. 1, Pope Benedict said he is concerned about continued attacks on human dignity and human rights, including from abortion, euthanasia and attempts to restrict religious freedom on pro-life issues, like the Obama administration’s HHS mandate.
The Catholic Church leader said some are promoting a “false peace” and “false rights or freedoms,” by employing “the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia.”
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“Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life,” he said.
Pope Benedict said governments recognize and uphold “the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.”
“Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.