New rules for sede vacante and conclave
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI issued an Apostolic letter motu proprio on Monday, in which he introduced a series of modifications to the laws governing the period sede vacante and the election of a new Bishop of Rome. The new Motu proprio replaces certain of the numbered paragraphs and/or sections of the text of the governing document, Universi Dominici gregis (UDG). Below are the principal highlights of the legislation.
By a modification to paragraph n. 37 of UDG: Pope Benedict XVI allows for the College of Cardinals to begin the Conclave before fifteen days have passed from the beginning of the period sede vacante, provided that all voting Cardinals are present. The modification also provides that the Conclave must begin no more than twenty days after the beginning of the sede vacante, even if all the electors are not present.
By a modification to paragraph n. 48: The oath of secrecy is extended to the individuals mentioned in Paragraph 55,2, among whom are the two “trustworthy technicians” who have the task of assisting the competent officers of the College in assuring that no audio-visual equipment for recording or transmitting has been installed by anyone in the areas mentioned, and particularly in the Sistine Chapel itself, where the acts of the election are carried out.
By a modification to the text of paragraph 55,3: The punishment for any violation of the oath of secrecy is to be excommunication latae sententiae (the old text provided for “grave penalties according to the judgment of the future Pope.