St. Stanislaus students get lesson on choosing a new Pope

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Now that Pope Benedict XVI has departed the Vatican, the process begins to replace the pontiff. It's a living history lesson the students at St. Stanislaus are learning about right now.

That lesson came from the school's president, who lived and worked in Rome at the Brothers of Sacred Hearts headquarters near the Vatican for 12 years.

"The Pope doesn't resign because he has no one to resign to. He abdicates," explained Brother Bernard Couvillion, President of St. Stanislaus.

Through a student demonstration, Couvillion took students back 600-years to the only other time in Roman Catholic history when a Pope left the papacy before death.

"The last time that a Pope resigned or abdicated was because of a schism in the Church," said Couvillion.

"I think it's an amazing experience to understand, cause no Pope has ever retired," said St. Stanislaus Senior Justin Polk. "He's stepping up and saying I can't continue doing this. I'm ill and I want somebody to be able to take the Catholic Church on to a new level."

With the departure of Pope Benedict XVI, 115 Cardinals from around the world will have the task of choosing his successor.

"Conclave means the gathering of the Cardinals," Couvillion said. "When they go into the Sistine Chapel, which is an ancient and beautiful room, a chapel made by Pope Sixtus, they are in secrecy. There are no cameras and all of that is part of promoting unity."

The new leader must receive two thirds of the conclave's support, a simply majority won't do it.

"If no one has two thirds, they take a pause, more time for prayer, reflection, more talking among themselves, then another vote," said Couvillion.

That process will begin sometime in March. Brother Couvillion predicts there will be a new Pope named before Easter.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.