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Austin Dalyai wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been studying the Church for a while now, and I am considering joining, however, there is one issue that I can't seem to find the answer for, and it weighs heavily on my decision.

When Peter was given the Keys to Heaven, he was given them directly by Jesus.

  • However, in modern times, the successor Pope isn't known prior to the current Pope's death, so, when the Pope passes on, what happens to the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven?
  • Are they transferred to the Cardinals until a new Pope is chosen?
  • How does it work in keeping Apostolic Succession going?

Austin

  { When the Pope passes on, what happens to the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Austin —

The keys to the kingdom of Heaven aren't like a kind of mystical hot potato or magical ring that someone has to possess. For that matter, they aren't literal keys. The term is a Hebrew idiom that refers to authority and governance. Today we speak of some well-respected person being given the keys to the city. This doesn't refer to anything that unlocks a door; it's a symbol meaning that they are welcomed and honored by the citizens of the city.

So, when a pope dies, no one has the keys — no one exercises papal authority and governance — until a new pope is elected. (The Camerlengo takes physical custody of Holy See when a pope dies.) The keys represent an office, and when the office is filled, the new pope ipso facto takes possession of them.

Eric

Mike replied:

Hey Eric,

  • Don't they do something with the Pope's ring? 

I forgot the reasoning and purpose.

Austin,

I used to run a free program that sent Catechisms to seeking Protestants and non-Christians but no longer have the financial or operational means to do this anymore. Nevertheless, if you wish to go deeper, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics.

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi, Mike —

They destroy it when the pope dies, and forge a unique one for the new pope.

The ring, itself, is merely a symbol of his office. It may serve as a seal as well (though I have no clue if they still use wax seals).

Eric

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