posted on Mar, 31 2005 @ 07:46 PM
Due to the recent interest in the Pope and his possible successor, I thought it would be useful to post the procedure performed by the Vatican for the
election of a new Supreme Pontiff.
This procedure was revised by the Vatican in February 1996 with the new document being entitled Universi Dominici Gregis
("The shepherd of the
Lord's whole flock").
This procedure is quite long and begins immediately after the death of the reigning pontiff.
Election of the Pope
15 days after the pope's death (and not later than 20 days) the election begins with a mass in St Peter's celebrated by all the cardinals. That
afternoon the cardinals process to the Sistine Chapel, where voting has traditionally taken place beneath Michelangelo's fresco of the Last
Judgement. The revised rules make no mention of the tradition of the white smoke that signals the end of voting and a new pope. Even though they are
no longer locked in, the process is still referred to as a 'conclave' and the process is made as private and secret as possible, even to the extent
of ensuring that an electronic sweep is done in the chapel to detect any 'bugs' planted.
The cardinals take an oath promising secrecy and the order is given, Extra omnes ("all outside"). The oath of secrecy forbids them to communicate
with anyone not involved in the election, or even to disclose details of the votes when the election is over.
Traditionally, there were three methods of choosing the new pope. The first was by acclamation, when all the cardinals agreed to one name proposed,
without prior arrangement. This, however, appears never to have happened.
The second was by compromise, when a stalemate was resolved in one of three ways - - a simple majority, plus one - a ballot between the two strongest
candidates - delegating the election to a small group of between 9 and 15.
Now there is only one method, a simple two-thirds majority (or two thirds plus one if the number is not exactly divisible).