Pope Benedict XVI’s historic resignation from the papacy will be the topic of discussion at a panel talk at the University of St. Thomas on Wednesday.

The school’s theology department organized the panel, which is aimed at “understanding the historical and theological meaning of this unprecedented event in Church history,” according to a released statement from St. Thomas. Benedict is the first pontiff in the last 600 years to resign from the papacy.

On Thursday, at 8:00 p.m. Rome time, the Apostolic See will become officially vacant and cardinals from all over the world will be called to Rome for the conclave that will elect the new pope.

Questions posed at the panel will include: How does the conclave work? What is its history? Who are the cardinal electors in 2013? Will we have an American Pope? What issues will be discussed in the conclave? What are the consequences of the conclave for the local Churches?

Three members of the theology department will give short presentations, followed by a Q&A session. The panel, which is free and open to the public,  is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at St. Thomas’ OEC Auditorium, 2115 Summit Ave, St. Paul.