Friday, March 8, 2013

Papal Conclave -- Procedure

The 2005 Papal Conclave that gave us Pope Benedict XVI.
We shall now turn our attention to the procedure of electing a Pope, as provided for in current Church law.  The definitive document is the Apostolic Constitution of Pope John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, which was promulgated on 22 February 1996.  Quotations below from this document will be in blue.  Just this year, on 22 February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI revised the Constitution in several respects – and those paragraphs of Universi modified by Benedict in his Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio” Normas nonnullas, will be bold and brown.
            Let us, then, look at some of the more significant passages of the text:

33. The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, with the exception of those who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day of the Roman Pontiff's death or the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant. The maximum number of Cardinal electors must not exceed one hundred and twenty. The right of active election by any other ecclesiastical dignitary or the intervention of any lay power of whatsoever grade or order is absolutely excluded.

This paragraph establishes the exclusive right of the Sacred College to choose a new Pontiff, but excludes those that are over 80 years of age “the day the Apostolic See becomes vacant.”  The practice of excluding those over 80 only dates to the pontificate of Pope Paul VI.  Two other echoes of Conclave development resonate here: a maximum of 120 Cardinal-Electors is mandated; the exclusion of “intervention of any lay power” brings to mind the veto, once exercised by various Catholic monarchies of note, but banned by Pope St. Pius X.

37. I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent before beginning the Conclave; however, the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to anticipated the beginning of the Conclave if all the Cardinal electors are present as well as the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.

This paragraph deals with the timeframe for the beginning of the Conclave after the vacancy of the Apostolic See.  Traditionally, the Conclave was to begin 10 days after the death of the Pope – after the nine days of morning.  Pope Pius XI extended the period to 15 days to allow for those Cardinal-Electors coming from the New World time to arrive.  It was in the last days of his pontificate that Pope Benedict XVI allowed for the time table to be moved earlier than 15 days “if all the Cardinal electors are present.”  It remains the case that the Conclave must begin no more than 20 days after the vacancy.

38. All the Cardinal electors, convoked for the election of the new Pope by the Cardinal Dean, or by another Cardinal in his name, are required, in virtue of holy obedience, to obey the announcement of convocation and to proceed to the place designated for this purpose, unless they are hindered by sickness or by some other grave impediment, which however must be recognized as such by the College of Cardinals.

39. However, should any Cardinal electors arrive re integra, that is, before the new Pastor of the Church has been elected, they shall be allowed to take part in the election at the stage which it has reached.

42. By the time fixed for the beginning of the election of the Supreme Pontiff, all the Cardinal electors must have been assigned and must have taken up suitable lodging in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, recently built in Vatican City.

These paragraphs note that the Cardinals are under obedience to attend the Conclave “unless they are hindered by sickness or by some other grave impediment.”  Pope John Paul II also provides for those Cardinal-Electors who arrive after the start of the Conclave may join the process, so long as a new Pontiff has not already been chosen.  New with the Apostolic Constitution of Pope John II was the provision that the Cardinal-Electors are housed in the Domus Sanctae Marthae on the grounds of the Vatican.

46. In order to meet the personal and official needs connected with the election process, the following individuals must be available and therefore properly lodged in suitable areas within the confines mentioned in No. 43 of this Constitution: the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, who acts as Secretary of the electoral assembly; the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations with eight Masters of Ceremonies and two Religious attached to the Papal Sacristy; and an ecclesiastic chosen by the Cardinal Dean or by the Cardinal taking his place, in order to assist him in his duties.

There must also be available a number of priests from the regular clergy for hearing confessions in the different languages, and two medical doctors for possible emergencies.
Appropriate provisions must also be made beforehand for a suitable number of persons to be available for preparing and serving meals and for housekeeping.
All the persons indicated here must receive prior approval from the Cardinal Camerlengo and the three Cardinal Assistants.

Here we have the list of those, aside from the Cardinal-Electors, that may be present in the Conclave.  For this conclave of 2013, the list was announced by the Vatican press office to include:
"- The Secretary of the College of Cardinals
- The master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff
- The masters of pontifical ceremonies
- The religious who supervise the pontifical sacristy
- The ecclesiastic chosen by the cardinal dean to help him in his duties
- The religious charged with hearing confessions in the various languages
- Doctors and nurses
- The personnel for preparing meals and cleaning
- Florist staff and technical service personnel (UDG, Nos. 5 and 51)
- Personnel responsible for transporting the Cardinal electors from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Apostolic Palace
- Elevator attendants at the Apostolic Palace
- The Colonel and a Major of the Corps of Pontifical Swiss Guards responsible for surveillance around the Sistine Chapel
- The Director of Security and Civil Protection Services with some assistants."

50. From the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, where they will assemble at a suitable hour in the afternoon, the Cardinal electors, in choir dress and invoking the assistance of the Holy Spirit with the chant of the 'Veni Creator', will solemnly process to the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, where the election will be held. The Vice Camerlengo, the General Auditor of the Apostolic Camera, and two members of each of the colleges of numerary participant Apostolic Protonotaries, Prelate Auditors of the Roman Rota, and Cleric Prelates of the Chamber will participate in the procession.

Certainly the solemn procession of the Cardinals into the Sistine Chapel (the place of the balloting) with the chanting of the Veni Creator, is one of the more dramatic public moments of the Conclave.  Indeed, the traditional Mass for the Election of a Pope is that of Pentecost – it is the hope of the Church that the Cardinal-Electors will be receptive to, and respond to, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here is a recording of that ancient hymn to the Holy Spirit:

52. When the Cardinal electors have arrived in the Sistine Chapel, in accordance with the provisions of No. 50, and still in the presence of those who took part in the solemn procession, they shall take the oath, reading aloud the formula indicated in No. 53.

The Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal who has precedence by order and seniority in accordance with the provisions of No. 9 of the present Constitution, will read the formula aloud; then each of the Cardinal electors, touching the Holy Gospels, will read and recite the formula, as indicated in the following Number.
When the last of the Cardinal electors has taken the oath, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations will give the order Extra omnes, and all those not taking part in the Conclave must leave the Sistine Chapel.

53. In conformity with the provisions of No. 52, the Cardinal Dean or the Cardinal who has precedence by order and seniority, will read aloud the following formula of the oath:
We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.
Each of the Cardinal electors, according to the order of precedence, will then take the oath according to the following formula:
And I, N. Cardinal N., do so promise, pledge and swear. Placing his hand on the Gospels, he will add: So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.

Such is the text of the oath taken by the Cardinal-Electors upon their entry into the Conclave.  Here we find the famous “extra omnes” that expels those not permitted to be present in the Conclave from the Sistine Chapel.  We might note, too, that at this point, the Cardinal-Dean, if he be over 80 years old (as is the case for this 2013 Conclave), is not able to be present in the Conclave – as such, the Cardinal-Bishop by Precedence would then preside over the Conclave and exercise those rolls associated with the Dean.  A word, then, on the College of Cardinals.

The College of Cardinals is divided into three orders: the Cardinal-Bishops, who are usually significant officials in the Vatican government, and who hold the title of those Suburban Diocese around Rome (there are 6 such Sees, along with that of Ostia, which is always held by the Cardinal-Dean; the Cardinal-Patriarchs, if you will, who, though members of the order of Cardinal-Bishops, have no title in Rome, but hold that of their own Eastern Rite Patriarchal See; Cardinal-Priests, who tend to be Metropolitan Archbishops from around the world, and who hold title to the major parishes of Rome; and Cardinal-Deacons, who are either Vatican officials or retired theologians honored with the red hat, though too old to vote, who hold title to Diaconal chapels around Rome.  In essence, the Orders are tied to the titles associated with them: Cardinal-Bishops are titular heads of diocese around Rome, while Cardinal-Priests are titular pastors of parishes in Rome.  An example – Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, is Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia (as Dean) and Albano.  Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC, is Cardinal-Priest of San Pietro in Vincoli.  Certainly those locations in Rome have their own bishop or pastor who runs the day-to-day matters of the place, but the Cardinal hold the office by title, and acts as a kind of protector of the place.  Thus, a meeting of the College of Cardinals is very much a meeting of the clergy of Rome!

This site gives you the Cardinals in each order.  You will note it begins with the Cardinal-Bishops, and provides links below to the Cardinal-Priests and Cardinal-Deacons:

62. Since the forms of election known as 'per acclamationem seu inspirationem' and 'per compromissum' are abolished, the form of electing the Roman Pontiff shall henceforth be 'per scrutinium' alone.

I therefore decree that, for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff, at least two thirds of the votes are required, calculated on the basis of the total number of electors present and voting.

Here is the requirement that the election must take place with 2/3rds of the votes of those present – and voting!  Benedict XVI added that last part, meaning that the 2/3rds is calculated based on votes cast, not electors present.

63,2. Should the election begin on the afternoon of the first day, only one ballot is to be held; then, on the following days, if no one was elected on the first ballot, two ballots shall be held in the morning and two in the afternoon. The voting is to begin at a time which shall have been determined earlier, either in the preparatory Congregations or during the election period, but in accordance with the procedures laid down in Nos. 64ff of the present Constitution.

So, during the course of the Conclave, we should expect two votes in the morning, two in the evening of a full day of voting – or 4 ballots per day.

64. The voting process is carried out in three phases. The first phase, which can be called the pre-scrutiny, comprises: 1) the preparation and distribution of the ballot papers by the Masters of Ceremonies—called meanwhile into the Hall together with the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and with the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations—who give at least two or three to each Cardinal elector; 2) the drawing by lot, from among all the Cardinal electors, of three Scrutineers, of three persons charged with collecting the votes of the sick, called for the sake of brevity 'Infirmarii', and of three Revisers; this drawing is carried out in public by the junior Cardinal Deacon, who draws out nine names, one after another, of those who shall carry out these tasks; 3) if, in the drawing of lots for the Scrutineers, 'Infirmarii' and Revisers, there should come out the names of Cardinal electors who because of infirmity or other reasons are unable to carry out these tasks, the names of others who are not impeded are to be drawn in their place. The first three drawn will act as Scrutineers, the second three as 'Infirmarii', and the last three as Revisers.

65. For this phase of the voting process the following norms must be observed: 1) the ballot paper must be rectangular in shape and must bear in the upper half, in print if possible, the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem; on the lower half there must be a space left for writing the name of the person chosen; thus the ballot is made in such a way that it can be folded in two; 2) the completion of the ballot must be done in secret by each Cardinal elector, who will write down legibly, as far as possible in handwriting that cannot be identified as his, the name of the person he chooses, taking care not to write other names as well, since this would make the ballot null; he will then fold the ballot twice; 3) during the voting, the Cardinal electors are to remain alone in the Sistine Chapel; therefore, immediately after the distribution of the ballots and before the electors begin to write, the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations and the Masters of Ceremonies must leave the Chapel. After they have left, the junior Cardinal Deacon shall close the door, opening and closing it again each time this is necessary, as for example when the Infirmarii go to collect the votes of the sick and when they return to the Chapel.

These two paragraphs, 64 & 65, describe the first stage of the voting process – the preparation of the ballots, the selection of officials for the various roles from amongst the Cardinals, drawn by lot by the junior member of the order of Cardinal-Deacons, and a description of how the ballots are to be constructed and filled out. 

66. The second phase, the scrutiny proper, comprises: 1) the placing of the ballots in the appropriate receptacle; 2) the mixing and counting of the ballots; 3) the opening of the votes. Each Cardinal elector, in order of precedence, having completed and folded his ballot, holds it up so that it can be seen and carries it to the altar, at which the Scrutineers stand and upon which there is placed a receptacle, covered by a plate, for receiving the ballots. Having reached the altar, the Cardinal elector says aloud the words of the following oath: 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. He then places the ballot on the plate, with which he drops it into the receptacle. Having done this, he bows to the altar and returns to his place.

68. After all the ballots of the Cardinal electors have been placed in the receptacle, the first Scrutineer shakes it several times in order to mix them, and immediately afterwards the last Scrutineer proceeds to count them, picking them out of the urn in full view and placing them in another empty receptacle previously prepared for this purpose. If the number of ballots does not correspond to the number of electors, the ballots must all be burned and a second vote taken at once; if however their number does correspond to the number of electors, the opening of the ballots then takes place in the following manner.

69. The Scrutineers sit at a table placed in front of the altar. The first of them takes a ballot, unfolds it, notes the name of the person chosen and passes the ballot to the second Scrutineer, who in his turn notes the name of the person chosen and passes the ballot to the third, who reads it out in a loud and clear voice, so that all the electors present can record the vote on a sheet of paper prepared for that purpose. He himself writes down the name read from the ballot. If during the opening of the ballots the Scrutineers should discover two ballots folded in such a way that they appear to have been completed by one elector, if these ballots bear the same name they are counted as one vote; if however they bear two different names, neither vote will be valid; however, in neither of the two cases is the voting session annulled.

When all the ballots have been opened, the Scrutineers add up the sum of the votes obtained by the different names and write them down on a separate sheet of paper. The last Scrutineer, as he reads out the individual ballots, pierces each one with a needle through the word Eligo and places it on a thread, so that the ballots can be more securely preserved. After the names have been read out, the ends of the thread are tied in a knot, and the ballots thus joined together are placed in a receptacle or on one side of the table.

Paragraphs 66-69 describe the most dramatic portion of the balloting – the scrutiny, or the actual voting.  Note that each Cardinal takes an oath as he votes, and that the three Scrutineers make sure that the results are rather clear to all present in the Sistine Chapel.  I have omitted those sections dealing with receiving the ballots of ill or infirm Cardinals who are nevertheless present in the Conclave, but unable to approach the altar – you should consult the Apostolic Constitution itself for those passages.

70. There then follows the third and last phase, also known as the post-scrutiny, which comprises: 1) the counting of the votes; 2) the checking of the same; 3) the burning of the ballots.

The Scrutineers add up all the votes that each individual has received, and if no one has obtained at least two thirds of the votes on that ballot, the Pope has not been elected; if however it turns out that someone has obtained at least two thirds of the votes, the canonically valid election of the Roman Pontiff has taken place.

In either case, that is, whether the election has occurred or not, the Revisers must proceed to check both the ballots and the notes made by the Scrutineers, in order to make sure that these latter have performed their task exactly and faithfully.

Immediately after the checking has taken place, and before the Cardinal electors leave the Sistine Chapel, all the ballots are to be burnt by the Scrutineers, with the assistance of the Secretary of the Conclave and the Masters of Ceremonies who in the meantime have been summoned by the junior Cardinal Deacon. If however a second vote is to take place immediately, the ballots from the first vote will be burned only at the end, together with those from the second vote.

Finally, we have the tallying of the ballots, the verification, and, if no more ballots are to be cast that morning of afternoon, the burning of the ballots – which produce the famous smoke seen from St. Peter’s Square.  If no one is elected, the ballots have been traditionally burned with wet straw to make the smoke more black, but today a chemical is used to the same effect.

72. Confirming the dispositions of my Predecessors, Saint Pius X, Pius XII and Paul VI, I decree that — except for the afternoon of the entrance into the Conclave — both in the morning and in the afternoon, after a ballot which does not result in an election, the Cardinal electors shall proceed immediately to a second one, in which they are to express their vote anew. In this second ballot all the formalities of the previous one are to be observed, with the difference that the electors are not bound to take a new oath or to choose new Scrutineers, Infirmarii and Revisers. Everything done in this regard for the first ballot will be valid for the second one, without the need for any repetition.

So, if the first ballot of the morning or afternoon session does not produce a winner, the next ballot begins at once.  Two ballots are burned at a time, unless someone were elected on the first ballot of that morning or afternoon.

74. In the event that the Cardinal electors find it difficult to agree on the person to be elected, after balloting has been carried out for three days in the form described above (in Nos. 62ff) without result, voting is to be suspended for a maximum of one day in order to allow a pause for prayer, informal discussion among the voters, and a brief spiritual exhortation given by the senior Cardinal in the Order of Deacons. Voting is then resumed in the usual manner, and after seven ballots, if the election has not taken place, there is another pause for prayer, discussion and an exhortation given by the senior Cardinal in the Order of Priests. Another series of seven ballots is then held and, if there has still been no election, this is followed by a further pause for prayer, discussion and an exhortation given by the senior Cardinal in the Order of Bishops. Voting is then resumed in the usual manner and, unless the election occurs, it is to continue for seven ballots.

75. If the votes referred to in Nos. 72, 73, and 74 of the above-mentioned Constitution do not result in an election, a day will be dedicated to prayer, reflection, and discussion. In subsequent votes, in accordance with the procedure established in No. 74 of this same Constitution, only the two whose names have received the greatest number of votes in the immediately preceding ballot will have the passive electoral right. There can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by a qualified majority of at least two thirds of the votes of the cardinals who are present and voting. Moreover, in these ballots, the two persons who enjoy the passive electoral right lose their active electoral right.

Here we have provisions for a Conclave that is deadlocked.  If three days of balloting results in no new pontiff and no one with two thirds of those electing, a day of reflection is taken, during which the Senior Cardinal-Deacon gives “a brief spiritual exhortation.”  Another pause follows for each 7 ballots without result, with the senior Cardinal-Priest giving an exhortation; then after yet another 7 ballots, the senior Cardinal-Bishop gives an exhortation during a period of reflection and discussion.  Notice that at that point, the format turns to that of a run-off, with the top two Cardinals in terms of votes received becoming the only two candidates, and those two cardinals deprived of their vote.  The two-thirds majority is still required, however.

87. When the election has canonically taken place, the junior Cardinal Deacon summons into the Hall of election the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, and two Masters of Ceremonies. The Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal who is first in order and seniority, in the name of the whole College of electors, then asks the consent of the one elected in the following words: 'Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?' And, as soon as he has received the consent, he asks him: 'By what name do you wish to be called?' Then the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, acting as notary and having as witnesses the two Masters of Ceremonies, draws up a document certifying acceptance by the new Pope and the name taken by him.

88. After his acceptance, the person elected, if he has already received episcopal ordination, is immediately Bishop of the Church of Rome, true Pope and Head of the College of Bishops. He thus acquires and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal Church.

If the person elected is not already a Bishop, he shall immediately be ordained Bishop.

89. When the other formalities provided for in the Ordo Rituum Conclavis have been carried out, the Cardinal electors approach the newly-elected Pope in the prescribed manner, in order to make an act of homage and obedience. An act of thanksgiving to God is then made, after which the senior Cardinal Deacon announces to the waiting people that the election has taken place and proclaims the name of the new Pope, who immedi- ately thereafter imparts the Apostolic Blessing Urbi et Orbi from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.
If the person elected is not already a Bishop, homage is paid to him and the announcement of his election is made only after he has been solemnly ordained Bishop.

Here we have the procedure for accepting the election as Supreme Roman Pontiff.  It is the junior Cardinal-Deacon, who has been a bit of a door-man, to summon those needed into the Hall of election, and it is the Dean or senior Cardinal-Bishop who asks if the winner will accept.  Of course, if the one elected is, for whatever reason, not already a bishop, he is immediately made such.

Once the Church has a new Pope, and he is vested in the appropriate vestments, the new Pope receives the homage of the Cardinals, gives thanks to God, and, after the traditional announcement of the senior Cardinal-Deacon, the proto-Deacon, he gives his blessing from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.  The words are as follows:Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:
Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum [Baptismal Name]
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem [Surname]
qui sibi nomen imposuit [Chosen Papal Name]

Certainly the moment of the announcement of a new Pope is electric.  Here is video of the announcement of the election of Pope Benedict XVI by Jorge Cardinal Medina Estevez, Protodeacon at the time:

The United State Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided this nifty image of the Procedure of the Papal Conclave:

Also, the article at the folllowing link provides some splendid details on how to break down the announcement of who has been elected, along with footage of earlier announcements by Cardinal-Protodeacons of "habemus papam!"

In the next week or two, this whole process of the Conclave is to play out.  Next week I shall post about some of the specific characters and officeholders in this Conclave of 2013.

You might note these earlier posts:
First, a word on Papal abdications:
Second, for more on the Papacy and its roots in Scripture and tradition, you might note this post:
Third, on the procedures and situation of the Church during the sede vacante, the interregnum between popes, you might note:
Finally, on the history of the papal conclave:

Live well.

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