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''Sede vacante'' (
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
for "with the seat being vacant") is a term for the state of an
episcopal see The seat or ''cathedra'' of the Bishop of Rome in the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran An episcopal see is, in the usual meaning of the phrase, the area of a bishop's ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Phrases concerning actions occurring within o ...
while without a
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
. In the
canon law Canon law (from grc, κανών, , a 'straight measuring rod, ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction industries, to measure dis ...
of the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic Church
, the term is used to refer to the vacancy of any see of a
particular church A particular church ( la, ecclesia particularis) is an ecclesiastical community of faithful headed by a Bishop (Catholic Church), bishop (or Hierarchy of the Catholic Church#Equivalents of diocesan bishops in law, equivalent), as defined by Catho ...
, but it comes into especially wide journalistic use when the see is that of the
papacy The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

papacy
.


Vacancy of the Holy See

After the
death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...

death
or
resignation Resignation is the formal act of leaving or quitting one's office or position. A resignation can occur when a person holding a position gained by election or appointment steps down, but leaving a position upon the expiration of a term, or choos ...
of a
pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

pope
, the
Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian ...
enters a period of ''sede vacante''. In this case the particular church is the
Diocese of Rome The Diocese of Rome ( la, Dioecesis Urbis seu Romana; it, Diocesi di Roma) is the ecclesiastical district under the direct jurisdiction of the Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as ...
and the "vacant seat" is the ''cathedra'' of
Saint John Lateran
Saint John Lateran
, the cathedral church of the
Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...
. During this period, the Holy See is administered by a
regency A regent (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
of the
College of Cardinals The College of Cardinals, or more formally the Sacred College of Cardinals, is the body of all cardinals Cardinal or The Cardinal may refer to: Christianity * Cardinal (Catholic Church), a senior official of the Catholic Church * Cardina ...
. According to ''
Universi Dominici gregis ''Universi Dominici gregis'' is an apostolic constitution An apostolic constitution ( la, constitutio apostolica) is the most solemn form of legislation Legislation is law which has been promulgation, promulgated (or "enactment of a bill, en ...
'', the government of the
Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian ...
and the administration of the Catholic Church during sede vacante falls to the
College of Cardinals The College of Cardinals, or more formally the Sacred College of Cardinals, is the body of all cardinals Cardinal or The Cardinal may refer to: Christianity * Cardinal (Catholic Church), a senior official of the Catholic Church * Cardina ...
, but in a very limited capacity. At the same time, all the heads of the departments of the
Roman Curia The Roman Curia ( la, Romana Curia ministerium suum implent) comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdi ...
"cease to exercise" their offices. The exceptions are the
Cardinal Camerlengo Camerlengo (plural: ''camerlenghi'', Italian for " Chamberlain") is an Italian title of medieval origin. It derives from the late Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Europe ...
, who is charged with managing the property of the Holy See, and the
Major Penitentiary The Apostolic Penitentiary (), formerly called the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, is a dicastery A dicastery (from gr, δικαστήριον, dikastērion, law-court, from δικαστής, 'judge, juror') is a department of ...
, who continues to exercise his normal role. If either has to do something which normally requires the assent of the Pope, he has to submit it to the College of Cardinals.
Papal legate 300px, A woodcut showing Henry II of England greeting the pope's legate. A papal legate or apostolic legate (from the ancient Roman In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Gr ...
s continue to exercise their diplomatic roles overseas, and both the
Vicar General of Rome it, Vicario Generale di Sua Santità , unofficial_names = Cardinal Vicar , insignia = Coat of arms Holy See.svg , insigniasize = 75px , insigniacaption = Coat of arms of the Diocese of Rome , image = , incumbent ...
and the
Vicar General for the Vatican City State , unofficial_names = Vicar General for Vatican City , insignia = Coat of arms Holy See.svg , insigniasize = 75px , insigniacaption = Coat of arms of the Diocese of Rome , image = , incumbent = Mauro Gambetti , ...
continue to exercise their pastoral role during this period. The postal administration of the
Vatican City State Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City State
prepares and issues special postage stamps for use during this particular period, known as "''sede vacante'' stamps". The
coat of arms#REDIRECT coat of arms A coat of arms is a heraldry, heraldic communication design, visual design on an escutcheon (heraldry), escutcheon (i.e., shield), surcoat, or tabard. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the fu ...

coat of arms
of the Holy See also changes during this period. The
papal tiara The papal tiara is a crown (headgear), crown that was worn by popes of the Catholic Church from as early as the 8th century to the mid-20th. It was last used by Pope Paul VI in 1963 and only at the beginning of his reign. The name "tiara" refer ...

papal tiara
over the
key Key or The Key may refer to: Common meanings * Key (cryptography), a piece of information that controls the operation of a cryptography algorithm * Key (lock), device used to control access to places or facilities restricted by a lock * Key (map) ...

key
s is replaced with the ''
umbraculum The umbraculum ( it, ombrellone, "big umbrella", in basilicas also conopaeumhttps://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/basilica) is a historic piece of the papal regalia and insignia, once used on a daily basis to provide shade for the pope ...

umbraculum
'' or ''ombrellino'' in
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
. This symbolizes both the lack of a Pope and the governance of the Camerlengo over the
temporalities Temporalities or temporal goods are the secular properties and possessions of the church. The term is most often used to describe those properties (a ''Stift'' in German or ''sticht'' in Dutch) that were used to support a bishop or other religious ...
of the Holy See. As further indication, the Camerlengo ornaments his
arms
arms
with this symbol during this period, which he subsequently removes once a pope is elected. Previously during this period the arms of the Camerlengo appeared on commemorative
Vatican lira The Italian lira (plural ''lire'') was the currency of the Vatican City between 1929 and 2002. History The Papal States, by then reduced to a smaller area close to Rome, used its own Papal States lira, lira between 1866 and 1870, after which it ce ...
coinage. It now makes its appearance on
Vatican euro coins Vatican euro coins are issued by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State 150px, The stamp vending machine of the Poste Vaticane, Vatican Postal Service. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City, Vatican City ...
, which are legal tender in all
Eurozone The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro (euro sign, €) as their primary currency and sole legal tender. T ...

Eurozone
states. The
interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order. Archetypally, it was the period of time between the reign of one monarch and the next (coming from Latin ''i ...

interregnum
is usually highlighted by the
funeral A funeral is a ceremony A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a commu ...

funeral
Mass Mass is the quantity Quantity is a property that can exist as a multitude or magnitude, which illustrate discontinuity and continuity. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", "less", or "equal", or by assigning a numerical value ...
of the deceased pope, the general congregations of the College of Cardinals for determining the particulars of the election, and finally culminates in the
papal conclave A papal conclave is a gathering of the College of Cardinals The College of Cardinals, formerly styled the Sacred College of Cardinals, is the body of all Cardinal (Catholicism), cardinals of the Catholic Church. List of living cardinals ...
to elect a successor. Once a new
pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...

pope
has been elected (and
ordained Ordination is the process by which individuals are Consecration, consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorization, authorized (usually by the religious denomination, denominational hi ...
bishop if necessary) the ''sede vacante'' period officially ends, even before the
papal inauguration #REDIRECT Papal inauguration Papal inauguration is a liturgical service of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christi ...
.
Cardinal Cardinal or The Cardinal may refer to: Christianity * Cardinal (Catholic Church), a senior official of the Catholic Church * Cardinal (Church of England), two members of the College of Minor Canons of St. Paul's Cathedral Navigation * Cardina ...
s present in Rome are required to wait at least fifteen days after the start of the vacancy before they hold the conclave to elect the new Pope. After twenty days have elapsed, they must hold the conclave, even if some cardinals are missing. The period from the death of the Pope to the start of the conclave was often shorter but, after Cardinal
William Henry O'Connell William Henry O'Connell (December 8, 1859 – April 22, 1944) was an United States, American Cardinal (Catholicism), cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, Archbishop of Boston from 1907 until his deat ...
had arrived just too late for two conclaves in a row,
Pius XI Pope Pius XI ( it, Pio XI), born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (; 31 May 1857 – 10 February 1939), was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian de ...
extended the time limit. With the next conclave in 1939, cardinals began to travel by air. Days before his resignation in February 2013,
Benedict XVI Pope Benedict XVI ( la, Benedictus XVI; it, Benedetto XVI; german: Benedikt XVI.; born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, , on 16 April 1927) is a retired prelate A prelate () is a high-ranking member of the clergy who is an ordinary or who ra ...

Benedict XVI
amended the rules to allow the cardinals to begin the conclave sooner, if all voting cardinals are present. Historically, ''sede vacante'' periods have often been quite lengthy, lasting many months, or even years, due to lengthy deadlocked conclaves. The most recent period of ''sede vacante'' of the Holy See began on 28 February 2013, after the resignation of Benedict XVI, and ended on 13 March 2013 with the election of Pope Francis, a period of 13 days. The longest period without a Pope in the last 250 years was the approximately half year from the death in prison of
Pius VI Pope Pius VI (born Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi, 25 December 171729 August 1799) was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the , with 1.3 billion Catholics . As the world's ...

Pius VI
in 1799 and the election of
Pius VII Pope Pius VII (14 August 1742 – 20 August 1823), born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by numb ...

Pius VII
in Venice in 1800.


Extended ''sede vacante'' periods

Whilst conclaves and papal elections are generally completed in short order, there have been several periods when the papal chair has been vacant for months or even years. The following table details ''sede vacante'' periods in excess of a year:


''Sede vacante'' periods since 1799


Other Roman Catholic dioceses

The term "sede vacante" can be applied to other Catholic dioceses outside of Rome. In such cases, this means that the particular diocesan
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...
has either died, resigned, transferred to a different diocese, or lost his office and a replacement has not yet been named. If there is a
coadjutor bishop A coadjutor bishop (or bishop coadjutor) is a bishop in the Catholic The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek languag ...
for the diocese, then this period does not take place, as the coadjutor bishop (or coadjutor archbishop, in the case of an archdiocese) immediately succeeds to the
episcopal see The seat or ''cathedra'' of the Bishop of Rome in the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran An episcopal see is, in the usual meaning of the phrase, the area of a bishop's ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Phrases concerning actions occurring within o ...
. Within eight days after the episcopal see is known to be vacant, the college of
consultors A consultor is one who gives counsel, i.e., a counselor. In the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, wit ...
(or the
cathedral chapter According to both and , a cathedral chapter is a of clerics () formed to advise a and, in the case of a of the in some countries, to govern the during the vacancy. In the their creation is the purview of the . They can be "numbered", in whic ...
in some countries) is obliged to elect a
diocesan administrator:''See: Catholic Church hierarchy#Equivalents of diocesan bishops in law'' A diocesan administrator is a provisional ordinary of a Roman Catholic Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilizati ...
. The administrator they choose must be a priest or bishop who is at least 35 years old. If the college of consultors fails to elect a qualifying person within the time allotted, the choice of diocesan administrator passes to the
metropolitan archbishop Metropolitan may refer to: * Metropolitan area A metropolitan area or metro is a region consisting of a densely populated core city, urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories under the same administrative division, sharing indus ...

metropolitan archbishop
or, if the metropolitan see is vacant, to the senior-most by appointment of the
suffragan bishop A suffragan bishop is a type of bishop in some Christian denominations. In the Anglican Communion, a suffragan bishop is a bishop who is subordinate to a metropolitan bishop or diocesan bishop (bishop ordinary) and so is not normally jurisdictiona ...
s. Before the election of the diocesan administrator of a vacant see, the governance of the see is entrusted, with the powers of a
vicar general A vicar general (previously, archdeacon An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in the , , , , , and some other s, above that of most and below a . In the it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the . An archdeacon is ...
, to the auxiliary bishop, if there is one, or to the senior among them, if there are several, otherwise to the college of consultors as a whole. The diocesan administrator has greater powers, essentially those of a bishop except for matters excepted by the nature of the matter or expressly by law. Canon law subjects his activity to various legal restrictions and to special supervision by the college of consultors (as for example canons 272 and 485).
Vicars general A vicar general (previously, archdeacon An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in the Church of the East The Church of the East ( syc, , ''ʿĒḏtā d-Maḏenḥā''), also called the Persian Church, East Syrian Church, Babylonian ...
and episcopal vicars lose their powers ''sede vacante'' if they are not bishops; the vicars that are themselves bishops retain the powers they had before the see fell vacant, which they are to exercise under the authority of the administrator.


Other uses

The term has been adopted in
Sedevacantism Sedevacantism is the position held by some people who identify as Catholic.. that the present occupier of the Holy See is not the pope due to the mainstream church's espousal of what they see as heresies of modernism , Solomon Guggenheim ...
, an extremeMary Jo Weaver, R. Scott Appleby (editors), ''Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America'' (Indiana University Press 1995
), p. 257 strand of the Catholic traditionalist movement. Sedevacantists believe that all popes since the
Second Vatican Council The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, commonly known as the , or , was the 21st ecumenical council An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological e ...
have been
heretics Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. The term is usually used in reference to violations of important religio ...
, and that therefore the
see of Rome The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is gene ...
is vacant.


See also

*
Glossary of the Catholic Church This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church. A * Abbess — the female head of a community of nuns (abbey) * Abbot — the male head of a community of monks (monastery) * Acolyte * Actual grace * Ad limina visits — visit by ...
*
Index of Catholic Church articles This is an index of Catholic Church articles. Portals and navigation boxes are at the bottom of the page. For a listing of Catholic Church articles by category, see :Catholic Church (and its various subcategories and pages) at the bottom of the pa ...


Notes


References


External links


Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon LawCanon Law Commentary, Discussion and Bibliography
{{Authority control Catholic Church legal terminology Election of the Pope Latin legal terminology Apostolic Camera