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The Holy Spirit and the Conclave
Question from Gustave on 4/19/2005:
United Arab Emirates

Someone had told me recently that it is said that during the Conclave, the Holy Spirit is 'PHYSICALLY' present. How far is this true?

Answered on 4/26/2005:

That is a misunderstanding. The Church believes that a special Providence governs the selection of the Pope. The effecting of Divine Providence in the world, whether of inspiration or of grace assisting the will, is attributed to the Holy Spirit (as Creation is attributed to the Father, and Redemption to the Son).

If the Cardinals are faithful we can be sure that the Holy Spirit has guided the election. They swore before God to choose wisely, they prayed, they deliberated, and they voted. In such an important matter we know by faith that God will assist the Cardinals. The Cardinals need only cooperate with Him.

Nonetheless, the Cardinals are human beings. They can choose not to cooperate with grace. History shows that in some papal elections of the past human motives of power, greed or vanity have sometimes guided the choice. Such cases are also God's Providence, but by tolerance rather than by His positive will -- just as moral and material evils (sickness, storms etc.) are not God's positive will for us, but the consequence of His gift of free will and our abuse of it.

However, regardless of whether the Cardinals are docile to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, once elected the new pope is guaranteed the Petrine charism and the assistance of the Holy Spirit to preserve him from formally teaching error as Pope.

I might add that this last election was so remarkable in its swiftness and apparent convergence on Cardinal Ratzinger, and the man himself so extraordinary, as well as good (as John Paul II was), it seems a clear sign of the action of the Holy Spirit. Those in dissent on the right and on the left should ponder whether their positions and attitudes regarding the Church and the Pope conform to the will of God, and whether, perhaps, they have simply lost the faith and can no longer appreciate anything other than human motives and thinking. Indeed, a new pontificate gives all of us an opportunity to renew and/or strengthen our bond with the successor of St. Peter. If we do not, whose fault can that be but our own.


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