VATICAN CITY — The first clue to the identity of the new pope will be the announcement of his first name — in Latin, in the accusative case.
If he is not the one chosen, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the top-ranked cardinal-deacon, will say, in Latin, “I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope: His most Eminent and Reverend Lordship, Lord …” followed by the Latin version of the chosen cardinal’s first name.
If Cardinal Tauran says, “Lord Odilonem” everyone would know the new pope was Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo. They would not have to wait for Cardinal Tauran to announce the new pope’s last name.
But if he says Angelum, it would not necessarily mean the new pope was the media-touted Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan; there are three other Italian cardinals also named Angelo.
If the cardinal says “Ioannem,” things would be much more complicated. Fifteen cardinals’ names begin Juan, Jean or Giovanni, the equivalent of John.
Five cardinals’ first names are variations of “Iosephum” (Joseph), five are named “Franciscum” (Francis) and five have names beginning “Antonium” (Anthony).
Only two are named after the apostle Peter, “Petrum,” and three after the apostle Paul, “Paulum.”
The 115 cardinals who will enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave include four named “Georgium” or George and three who would be called “Carolum,” like Blessed John Paul II, the former Karol Wojtyla.
There are limits to translation possibilities: Lithuanian Cardinal Audrys Juozas Backis of Vilnius would be called Audrys and Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai would be either Bachara or Becharam.
When the Vatican’s Office of Latin Letters is called upon to write a letter in Latin to one of the cardinals, the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” the book of official acts of the Holy See, is the go-to place for which version of their name to use. The volumes for 1909 through the end of 2012 are online on the Vatican website.
Apparently, though, it is not always that easy. Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Isaac Thottunkal, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, has been referred to both as Basilium Clementem and Isaac.
It also is possible that Cardinal Tauran will not use the accusative case when he announces the name. He could say, “Marcus” instead of “Marcum” if the cardinals choose Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has been prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
A full list of the cardinal electors’ names in Latin can be found here.