As pope-watchers prepare for the approaching conclave, here’s a great resource written by one of Rome’s true experts on the subject.
“Conclave: Step by Step Through the Papal Interregnum” was recently revised by Monsignor Charles Burns, a Scottish historian who once worked in the Vatican Archives. It can be downloaded for free here from the Catholic Truth Society.
Monsignor Burns reviews the rules and seasons the text with his own insights. I love the part where he talks about the possibility of electing someone outside the College of Cardinals and adds:
“Beware! The last time a non-Cardinal was elected, in 1378, it caused the Great Western Schism, which divided Christendom into rival factions for almost forty years.”
When I bumped into the good monsignor in front of his residence near the Vatican the other day, he was as excited as all of us about Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement that he would resign.
Like many here, Burns called the pope’s decision a courageous act that will go down in history.