Process of the Conclave

The College of Cardinals governs the Church until a new Pope is elected, the powers of the College are limited. It cannot change the rules governing the elections, appoint Cardinals, or making any decisions binding on the next Pope. Until the Conclave begins, the Cardinals meet daily in a general congregation presided over by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Sodano, this time. All the Cardinals attend a general congregation, although attendance by those over 80 is optional. Only those younger than 80 years of age may elect the new Pope.

A meeting of Pope with his Cardinals is called a Consistory. A word that goes back to the fifth century. But when the Cardinals meet after the resignation or death of a Pope to elect a new Pope, the meeting called is called a Conclave. The word Conclave comes from “with a key” that is it is a meeting where the Cardinals are locked in by key until they come to a decision.

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Cardinal’s Timetable

March 12:

3:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.): Transfer from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Apostolic Palace.
4:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.): Procession from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel.
4:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m.): Oaths, meditation by Cardinal Prosper Grech, first ballot.
7:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m.): Vespers in the Sistine Chapel.
7:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.): Transfer to the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
8 p.m. (3 p.m.): Dinner.

March 13-15 or until election of a pope:

6:30-7:30 a.m. (1:30-2:30 a.m.): Breakfast.
7:45 a.m. (2:45 a.m.): Transfer to the Pauline Chapel.
8:15 a.m.-9:15 a.m. (3:15 a.m.-4:15 a.m.): Mass in the Pauline Chapel.
9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.): Prayer and two rounds of voting.
12:30 (7:30): Transfer to the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
1 p.m. (8 a.m.): Lunch.
4 p.m. (11 a.m.): Transfer to the Apostolic Palace.
4:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m.): Two more rounds of voting.
7:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m.): Vespers in the Sistine Chapel.
7:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.): Transfer to the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
8 p.m. (3 p.m.): Dinner.


After an individual has been elected in the Conclave, the dean of the College of Cardinals asks, “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?” Once he responds, “I accept,” he is officially the pope.  The dean then asks, “By what name do you wish to be called?” and the new pope provided the name.

He is immediately ushered out of the Sistine Chapel to a small adjoining room that houses his new papal robes. It has been given the title “The Room of Tears” presumably because of the intense emotion the election and the weight of the office carries. He walks into the room as a Cardinal and out as a Pope.

After he is dressed, the new pope returns to the Sistine Chapel where each of the electors offers a sign of homage and obedience.

An act of thanksgiving to God is then made, then the senior cardinal deacon steps onto the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica and announces in Latin, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus papam.” (I have news of great joy! We have a pope.)

The cardinal then reveals the pope’s identity, inserting his new name, all in Latin, “Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum {cardinal’s forename} Cardinalem Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae {cardinal’s surname} qui sibi nomen imposuit {new pope’s name}.” (The most eminent and most reverend lord, lord {cardinal’s forname} cardinal of the Holy Roman church {cardinal’s surname} has taken upon himself the name {new pope’s name}.)

The Pope is then led to the balcony, introduced to the faithful and delivers his first “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”) blessing to the city of Rome and the world, in his first official appearance.

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