The Conclave explained

07/03/2013

The Conclave

Conclave = con clave (Latin: with a key; referring to the former practice of “locking in” of the cardinals for the secret election; now, to the strict secrecy governing the procedure).

After Mass in Saint Peter’s seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the cardinals move in procession to the Sistine Chapel where they swear an oath to uphold the conclave’s norms and secrecy.

When those not voting have left, a preacher bids the cardinals undertake their weighty task having God alone before their eyes, an exhortation that Michelangelo’s Last Judgment silently reinforces. If the election begins the first afternoon, one ballot is held; after that, two ballots each morning and afternoon until one candidate receives at least two-thirds of the vote.

Before each cardinal deposits his ballot in a chalice-like urn, he proclaims: “I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected.” Three cardinals chosen by lot tally the votes; three others double-check. If both morning ballots are inconclusive, the ballots are burned in a stove whose chimney provides those gathered in Saint Peter’s Square and watching worldwide with a signal of black smoke indicating no election; likewise after two inconclusive afternoon ballots. When a candidate does receive two-thirds, he is asked if he accepts and which papal name he chooses. White smoke signals the election to the outside world, while the new pope changes into “papal whites” to receive pledges of obedience from the electors.

From Saint Peter’s central balcony, a senior Cardinal announces the new pope’s identity and papal name. Finally, the new pope presents himself to greet the faithful and confer his first blessing.

Tags: The Conclave   Vatican   Pontiff


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