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An Italian word that corresponds to "chamberlain" in English. In church parlance it designates the cardinal of the Holy Roman Church with specific responsibilities of treasurer and administrator during the time between the death of one pope and the election of his successor. The time period is often described as sede vacante. Pope John Paul II in the apostolic constitution, Universi dominici gregis, is the latest of five popes since St. Pius X to address this venerable office.

Appointed by the reigning pope, or elected by the College of Cardinals if the office is vacant at the pope's death, the camerlengo continues to exercise his ordinary functions of office, submitting to the College of Cardinals matters that would have had to be referred to the supreme pontiff. Upon the death of the supreme pontiff, the camerlengo must officially verify the pope's death and with those officials described by law draw up the official death certificate. He informs the dean of the College of Cardinals, who informs the cardinals and convokes them for the congregations of the college. The camerlengo seals the deceased pope's rooms of the papal apartment and the entire apartment after the pope's funeral; he informs the cardinal vicar for Rome, who informs the people of Rome of the pope's death; he notifies the cardinal archpriest of the Vatican basilica; and he takes possession of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and the palaces of the Lateran and Castel Gandolfo for the purpose of exercising custody and administration. As a member of the College of Cardinals to whom the government of the Church is entrusted, the camerlengo and three cardinals chosen by lot from the cardinal electors already present in Rome, form a particular congregation to deal with questions of lesser importance as compared to the general, or preparatory, congregations, which include the whole College of Cardinals and which are held before the beginning of the electoral conclave.

With the consultation of the other three cardinals, the camerlengo determines all matters of the pope's burial; and he deals, in the name of and with the consent of the College of Cardinals, with all matters that circumstances suggest for safeguarding the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See and for its proper administration. As preparation for the conclave to elect a new pope, the camerlengo reserves quarters in the Domus Sanctae Marthae for the cardinal electors and the areas reserved for liturgical celebrations, in particular the Sistine Chapel, making provision that a suitable number of persons be available for preparing and serving meals and for housekeeping. The cardinal camerlengo ensures, with the expertise of trustworthy technicians, that no violation of secrecy with regard to election events in the Sistine Chapel takes place before, during, and after the voting. During the actual voting of the cardinal electors, the camerlengo declares the results of each session, as well as disposes of ballots and any notes concerning the results of each ballot. The carmerlengo holds office ad bene placitum of the Roman pontiff.

Bibliography: Codex iuris canonici (Rome 1918; repr. Graz 1955) cc. 332335; Corpus Canonum ecclesiarium orientalium, cc. 4348 as modified by John Paul II, "Universi Dominici Gregis," in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 87 (1996): 305343.

[a. espelage]