Pope Benedict XVI worked 18-hour days doing what, exactly?

Pope Benedict XVI's replacement will follow in the grueling footsteps of the emeritus pontiff and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. How do popes fill their long days?

By , LiveScience

  • close
    Pope Benedict XVI (r) is greeted by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada in Cologne, Germany, in August 2005. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, one of the leading candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, suggested in an interview broadcast today that other papal candidates might do a better job.
    View Caption

As the Catholic Church's cardinals gather in Rome to set a date for the selection of a new pope, there is no clear front-runner for the job. But one thing is for sure: The next pontiff will have a grueling schedule.

The recently retired Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II, both worked days that could stretch from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. or even midnight, said Don Briel, the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

"The papacy has assumed a much more visible, prominent role and has become, as a result, much more exhausting in terms of its obligations," Briel told LiveScience.

Recommended: Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz

A pope's duties

The broad job description for the role of pope is the head of the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome. The pope is also the head of the sovereign city-state, Vatican City.

What this means on a daily basis is that the pope has duties both political and religious. The pope meets with heads of state and maintains diplomatic relationships with more than 100 nations. He conducts liturgies, appoints new bishops and travels.

He doesn't, however, work like a corporate CEO, dipping into the local and daily workings of regional parishes, Briel said.

"He's looking at a very broad overview of the universal church, the church as a whole," he said. [Saint or Slacker? Test Your Religious Knowledge]

A typical day starts early, with a private mass attended by household staff, Briel said. After breakfast, the morning might be spent writing epistles, or formal communications, as well as other works of religious scholarship. Much of the rest of the day is likely to be spent in meetings with bishops and political leaders from around the world.

The pope also ministers directly to the faithful, greeting pilgrims at General Audiences, which usually attract between several thousand and tens of thousands of people. Briel attended Benedict's last General Audience in Rome in February, which drew 200,000, he said. 

Around important holidays, such as Easter, the pope delivers major liturgies in St. Peter's Cathedral or elsewhere in Rome. He also travels around the world, conducting masses for audiences that fill football stadiums.

Between popes

These nonstop duties are relatively new, Briel said. Before Pope Paul VI, who held office from 1963 to 1978, popes rarely traveled and had fewer political duties. As the church has become more of a diplomatic force, the role has become more demanding to meet the extra responsibilities.  

When the papacy is vacant, however, all these activities come to a stop. All of the curial offices are in suspension, Briel said. No major decisions are made, and no new bishops are appointed.

"The cardinals as a congregation have a general responsibility to make routine decisions, but nothing fundamentally of an extraordinary nature, so it's simply in a state of pause," Briel said.

Cardinals under the age of 80 are now meeting to set a date for the papal conclave, which will decide the new pope. The current speculation is that the conclave will start March 11, Briel said, which should give the cardinals enough time to have a new pope in Rome in time for the liturgical responsibilities of Easter.

If the decision takes longer than that — and it may, as there is no clear front-runner for the position — Easter Mass will go on. A cardinal not busy with the secretive meetings of the conclave will preside. The most likely candidate for that job is Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the college of cardinals, who is 85.

"Since he's over 80, he's not in the conclave," Briel said. 

Email Stephanie Pappas or follow her @sipappas. Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share this story:
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...