VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican took the first steps of governing a Catholic Church without a pope on Friday, making some ceremonial and practical moves to formalize the end of one pontificate and prepare for the conclave to start the next.
Benedict XVI's resignation Thursday opened what is known as the "sede vacante" or "vacant see" -- the transition period between papacies when a few key Vatican officials take charge of running the church.
The dean of the College of Cardinals formally summoned his fellow "princes" of the church to Rome for a pre-conclave meeting on Monday -- something of a formality given that many of them are already here. But in a letter yesterday, Cardinal Angelo Sodano made clear that the conclave date won't be set until they have all arrived, meaning it may still be some time before a date is settled on.
Separately, the deputy to the camerlengo -- who administers the Vatican during the transition -- took symbolic possession of one of the papal basilicas in Rome. For obvious reasons, the camerlengo will not take possession of the main papal residence outside Rome -- Castel Gandolfo -- since that is Benedict's current retirement home.
In one of his last acts as pope, Benedict loosened the rules on the time frame for the camerlengo to take possession of papal holdings, precisely to allow him to live out his first few months in retirement in what is an official papal residence.