In conclave, cardinal ballots to be put in newly designed urns

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When cardinals cast their first ballots for a new pope, they also will be inaugurating newly commissioned art.

For centuries, cardinals set their ballots on a small plate and used it to tip the ballots into chalice-shaped urns.

They still will set the ballot on a plate, but now they will place the ballots in silver and gilded bronze urns shaped like woks with lids.

Archbishop Piero Marini, the Vatican's master of liturgical ceremonies, not only updated the rites and rituals surrounding the death and burial of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor, but also commissioned Italian sculptor Cecco Bonanotte to make the new egg-shaped urns.

The sculptor made three urns. One is for the ballots cast in the Sistine Chapel and one is for ballots cast in the Domus Sanctae Marthae by cardinals too ill to go to the Sistine.

Once those ballots are counted, they will be placed in the third urn and carried to the stove for burning, releasing white smoke to signify a pope has been elected or black smoke to communicate that no one received the required votes.

The urn that will receive the counted ballots has a small, rough sculpture of the Good Shepherd on top; tipping the figure opens the lid to allow the ballot to be placed inside. Three sheep stand on the edge of the urn.

In an April 11 press release, Archbishop Marini said the decoration, which also includes the eucharistic symbols of grapes and ears of wheat, is meant to underline the spiritual significance of the balloting, which is not a political election but a religious act.

Archbishop Marini said that looking at the oval urns with irregular surfaces and varying shades of bronze "the sensation received is that of a space which opens up beyond the visual plane."

He described Bonanotte's design as one in which "ancient and modern harmonize in barely accented forms where the classical tradition of perfection is tempered in a vision of open lines that suggest infinity."


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