December 20, 2014 / 1:22 PM / 4 years ago

Pope names new prelate who runs Vatican during papal transitions

Pope Francis, waves as he leaves at the end of his general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday named French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as the new camerlengo, or chamberlain, the cardinal who runs the Vatican after the death or resignation of a pontiff.

Tauran, 71, succeeds Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 80 this month, the age when cardinals can no longer enter a conclave to elect a pope.

Whether the papacy is left vacant by death or resignation, the camerlengo runs the ordinary affairs of the Vatican city-state until a new pope is elected in a secret conclave.

He cannot make any major decisions and cannot change Church teachings during the interim period, known as the “sede vacante”, or vacant seat.

In the case of a papal death, the camerlengo is the person who officially confirms it, traditionally by tapping the pontiff’s head three times with a silver hammer and calling out his name.

It was Tauran, as a senior cardinal deacon, who said the words “Habemus Papam” (We have a pope) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on the night of Francis’ election on March 13, 2013 and then announced the name of the new pope to the world.

Reporting By Philip Pullella: Editing by Angus MacSwan

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