18 Jul 2015 Articles No comments

To Love, Honor and Obey

We've all heard it. That reading at Mass. The one that makes people squirm in their pews, roll their eyes, snicker softly and elbow their spouses. The reading a…

Read more

10 Sep 2015 News Vatican Comments (1)

Churches that do not welcome people are called museums, says Francis

The Pope says parishes must be 'centres of love', not 'exclusive' sects A church that lives according to the Gospel must always have its doors open and be a …

Read more

01 Mar 2016 Americas News Vatican No comments

Movie producer of Oscar winning Spotlight tells Pope to Protect the Children and restore faith

"Spotlight" a new film recounting the true story of how The Boston Globe revealed the cover-up of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal early 2002 in the Arch…

Read more

20 Nov 2014 Q&A No comments

Does papal infallibility mean the pope is perfect or inerrant?

Full Question In what sense is the pope infallible? Does that mean that he is perfect or inerrant? Answer Papal infallibility means that the pope…

Read more

10 Dec 2015 News USA No comments

Catholic Bishop criticizes the Obama administration as regards to ISIS

The Chaldean Bishop Frank Kalabat of Detroit in a congressional committee expressed his disappointments at the US government under the President Obama's adminis…

Read more

02 Sep 2015 News USA Comments (3)

Kentucky clerk of court defies Supreme Court, refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Defying court orders, a county clerk in Kentucky is refusing to issue marriage licenses of same-sex couples. Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, said that she…

Read more

20 Feb 2015 Q&A No comments

How should senior citizens observe fasting and abstinence during Lent?

Full Question How should senior citizens observe fasting and abstinence during Lent? Answer According to canon 1252 of the Code of Canon Law, all…

Read more

22 Oct 2015 Europe News No comments

Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica begins work on towers

Work on Barcelona’s breathtaking La Sagrada Familia Basilica, designed by visionary architect Antoni Gaudi, has entered its final phase of raising six immense t…

Read more

15 Jun 2016 Vatican No comments

...As the trial into alleged leak of Vatican documents continues, the defendant gives birth

PR expert Francesca Chaouqui has given birth to a boy named Pietro as the trial into alleged leak of Vatican documents continues The Vatican’s criminal trial o…

Read more
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

27 Things You Didn’t Know About the Conclave

With the process to elect a new pope now underway, here are some facts to beef up your knowledge about one of the most important and intriguing institutions in the Church: the conclave.

1. The first conclave was held in 1276.

2. The smallest conclave was also one of the longest. Starting in mid-1277, just seven cardinals showed up for a conclave: four Italians and three Frenchmen. The ensuing deadlock lasted six months and ended only when a French prelate died. (Technically this may not have been a conclave, since the pope who died before it suspended formal conclave rules. However, historian Warren Carroll refers to it as a conclave. See below for more on the conclave suspension.)

3. The longest conclave lasted more than two years, an estimated 851 days, if you count from the beginning to the end of the Council of Constance which served as a special conclave of sorts. However, not all historians agree on this point. If you don’t count the council, the longest official conclave was 28 months, between May 1, 1314 and August 7, 1316. After that, the next longest was 183 days in 1740.

4. Many mainstream news outlets are erroneously reporting that the longest and the first conclave was in 1271 when a nearly three-year standstill at the Italian town of Viterbo so frustrated town officials that they locked the cardinals in a palace, hence the original of the word conclave, derived from the Latin phrase meaning with key. But the conclave as a formal institution was established in response to this fiasco, its name inspired by the solution that eventually had presented itself. The formal establishment was in 1274, at the Second Council of Lyons by Pope Gregory X.

5. Formal conclave rules were suspended months after the first one was held, by Pope John XX. For nearly two decades popes were elected without strictly following conclave procedures until Celestine V restored the institution in 1294.

6. According to one tally, there have been 73 conclaves since 1294, not counting the one happening now.

7. Not all conclaves have been in Rome or Italy. Outside of Rome, other Italian cities have hosted conclaves, including Venice, Perugia, and Naples. Six conclaves have been in France and one was in Constance, Germany in 1417.

8. The conclave in Constance is also the last one in which non-cardinals participated.

9. Originally cardinals slept in a communal room. That later changed to cells. Today cardinals have rooms assigned to them by lot in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a guest house in Vatican City.

10. Sfumata is the technical, Latin word for the smoke that signals the outcome of balloting.

11. How the smoke is colored black or white remains something of a mystery, although it is believed special chemicals are used in the process.

12. Any male Catholic, hypothetically speaking, could be elected Pope. While this seems extremely unlikely, it has happened. Pope Gregory X was neither a bishop nor a priest when he was chosen. Under the current rules, however, anyone elected pope who is not already a bishop must be immediately ordained to the episcopate.

13. All the popes elected since 1389, however, have been cardinals.

14. The doorkeeper: Every detail of the conclave is highly scripted. The current governing document, Universi Dominici Gregis, even specifies who is to shut the door to the Sistine Chapel once voting begins: the junior Cardinal Deacon.

15. Special offices for cardinals in the conclave: Before voting commences, cardinals are selected by lot to three offices—the Scrutineers, the Infirmarii, and the Revisers. There are three persons chosen for each office.

16. Scrutineers count the ballots.

17. Infirmarii collect ballots from any cardinals who happen to fall ill during the conclave and remain in their quarters.

18. Revisers double check the work of the Scrutineers.

19. Two medical doctors must be available to the cardinals participating in the conclave. They too must take an oath to keep secret anything they hear about goings-on within the Sistine Chapel.

20. Ballot paper specifications. Conclave rules require the following of the ballot paper: it has to be rectangular, capable of being folded in two, and, on the upper half bear the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem, Latin for, “I elect as Supreme Pontiff."

21. Handwriting guidelines: Cardinals must write down the name of their choice “legibly" but they must also disguise their handwriting so that it is not clearly recognizable as their own.

22. Needle in the ballots: As each ballot is read out by a Scrutineer, he pierces it with a needle, which goes through the word Eligo. The ballots are all threaded together and the ends are twisted into a knot after all the ballots have been counted, according to current conclave guidelines.

23. Ballots aren’t the only things burned. Any notes the cardinals have made during the process are thrown into the fire too.

24. Cardinals can’t watch the news, listen to the radio, or even read newspapers or magazines during the conclave.

25. Two oaths: You may have seen the cardinals on Tuesday taking an oath to follow the rules and observe strict secrecy regarding the deliberations of the conclave. They also take a second oath each time they approach the altar to drop off their ballots. The second oath reads as follows: 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.

26. A cardinal can legally break silence about a conclave after the fact only if given express permission by the new Pope.

27. Voting records from each session are otherwise kept in a sealed envelope—only to be opened if the Pope allows it.



  1. Franklin P. Uroda Reply

    Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world. He didn’t say His Church was not of this world. His Church sure looks, acts and sounds like a “kingdom of this world” not real power, but tons of pelf.

    1. Anthony Edward Emeañaa Reply

      @Franklin P. Uroda, your comment clearly shows total misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misapplication of the words of Jesus words to Pilate. I do not see it’s relationship with the election of a Pope. Are you saying that the followersm of Christ vis-a-vis His Church should exist without an organised structure, form, institution and leadership succession rules and practice? Must you comment even when you do not have anything reasonable to say. Just to criticise?

Leave a Reply

  1. most read post
  2. Most Commented
  3. Choose Categories