Really Dude: A Dark Side Ritual?

When Pope Benedict decided to resign and go into retirement there was extensive worldwide news coverage and probably intensive scrambling around within the Vatican hierarchy. There must have been a lot of, “What do we do now, this has not happened before?”

In an attempt to keep the story going, the international press was full of details highlighting the institutional rituals and operating rules that go into effect when a Pope dies. There’s a process and rules that kicks in automatically until a new Pope is named.

For instance when a Pope dies, or in this case resigns, the Roman curia heads have to resign, and the Vatican essentially shuts down. The old guard, the Vatican prelates, are out of a job until a new pope is named who may or may not reinstate them. They will have no authority to continue their work, pending a new dictate by the new pope.

English: Emblem of Vatican City Italiano: Embl...

English: Emblem of Vatican City Italiano: Emblema della Ciattà del Vaticano Македонски: Амблем на Ватикан {| cellspacing=”0″ style=”min-width:40em; color:#000; background:#ddd; border:1px solid #bbb; margin:.1em;” class=”layouttemplate” | style=”width:1.2em;height:1.2em;padding:.2em” | 20px |link=|center | style=”font-size:.85em; padding:.2em; vertical-align:middle” |This vector image was created with Inkscape. |} Emblem of Vatican City.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But there was one curious ritual that got my dark side attention. Did you know that the Cardinal who is Secretary of State—effectively the Vatican’s number two job– remains on only as Camerlengo (Chamberlain).

He stays on because the Camerlengo has traditionally had the role of officially certifying the death of a pope—he used to do so by striking the pontiff’s forehead on his deathbed with a special silver hammer and calling out the words “Holy Father”?

I’m sorry, that makes me laugh. The article I was reading went on to other issues related to what happens while the world awaits a new pope and never spoke again about this ritual practice seeming to be a bit barbaric. 

While I’m sure that now a days a physician certifies a pope’s death, I do wonder however if this method of certification could ever have gone wrong and a dying Pope was jared out of his deep sleep or coma when he got bonked on the head with a silver hammer?

I wonder if in that instance he might have awakened and shouted, ‘Really Dude”!


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