Pope Francis has named Irishman Cardinal Kevin Farrell to a senior Vatican role that will see the Dublin native take on a key role between the death or retirement of the Pontiff and the election of his successor.
In a communique this morning, the Holy See Press Office announced that Francis had appointed Dr Farrell as camerlengo or chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church.
In this role, Cardinal Farrell takes charge of the goods and temporal affairs of the Holy See between the death of the serving Pope and the election of the next.
The role only officials commences upon the death of the Pope. Church law stipulates that as soon as the cardinal is informed that the Pope has died, he “must officially ascertain the Pope’s death, in the presence of the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, of the Cleric Prelates of the Apostolic Camera and of the Secretary and Chancellor of the same”.
The camerlengo must also place seals on the Pope’s study and bedroom and ensure that the Papal apartments remain vacant and secure until a successor has been elected by the conclave of cardinals. He also takes the Pope’s ring – the sign of his authority – and ensure that it is defaced to prevent documents being forged with the late Pope’s seal.
As well as this, Cardinal Farrell will be responsible for notifying the Cardinal Vicar for Rome that the Pope has died so that the people of the diocese can be notified that a period of sede vacante has begun.
He also determines all matters concerning the Pope’s burial.
Church law provides that “during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three Cardinal Assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise”.
When the Apostolic See is Vacant, Cardinal Farrell will serve as the acting sovereign of Vatican City State and in this role he will ensure the production of stamps and minting of Vatican Euro coins marked sede vacante. His heraldic arms are ornamented with two keys – one gold, one silver – in saltire surmounted by an ombrellino, a canopy or umbrella of alternating red and yellow stripes.
These are also the arms of the Holy See during a papal interregnum.
Cardinal Farrell was born in Drimnagh in 1947 and ordained a priest in Rome in 1978. In 2001, St John Paul II appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of Washington DC in the US and in 2007 he was appointed Bishop of Dallas by Pope Benedict XVI. He served in this role until Pope Francis appointed him as head of the new Vatican department for laity, family and life in 2016. He was made a cardinal the same year.