Pope names new prelate who runs Vatican during papal transitions

Pope Francis speaks during an audience with Italian athletes in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Pope Francis speaks during an audience with Italian athletes in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

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.