With Benedict XVI's abdication taking effect Thursday, the Roman Catholic Church has no pope until the conclave of cardinals settles on a new one. Like many other procedures of the church, the rules for running the institution during this period are ancient and little-known.
When a monarch leaves, the period before the new king or queen takes over is called an interregnum. In the Roman Catholic Church, it's called a sede vacante (or "empty seat"). The Cardinal Chamberlain, or Camerlengo -- currently Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone -- is in charge of running the church, working with three cardinal assistants who are chosen at random and are replaced every three days.
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