How a Conclave is conducted
FY HUGH KAY THE Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church are now assembling for the 79th Conclave in the Church's history.
The system of sealing the
Sacred College off while it elects a new Sovereign Pontiff dates from the fantastic episode in the 13th century. when it took two years, nine months and two days to elect Gregory X.
The frustrated faithful shut the Electors up, starved them, and are even said to have taken the roof off so as to expose them to the worst the weather could do. When ultimately elected in 1271, Pope Gregory established
the first rules for Conclave procedure.
The shortest Conclave was that of 1939, which elected Pope Pius XII in 20 hours. Pope John XXIII was elected after four days, and in the 11th ballot, in 1958.
Clement VII, in the 16th century, decreed that all Conclaves should be held in Rome. St. Pius X put an end to the principle of veto by certain Catholic sovereigns, after the Austro-Hungarian Emperor had threatened to use his veto if Cardinal Rampolla were elected. Plus X further decreed that any Cardinal acting in any way in Conclave for a secular power would be excommunicated.
The oath Pope Pius Xf's mom proprlo "Cum proxime". in 1922, extended from 15 to 18 days the maximum period allowed to elapse between the death of a Pope and the Conclave opening. Further precision was added to the rules in 1945 by the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII Vacantis A postolicae S'edls, and Pope John made minor changes in the decree Pontificis Elect; last year
This established that a simple two-thirds majority would be sufficient in any one ballot, but that the old rule of two-thirds plus one would obtain where the total number of the electors was not divisible by three.
It also abolished the rule of excommunication for Cardinals who, without due excuse, fail to
respond to the third bell summoning them to a ballot.
Pope John also directed that Cardinals must turn in any private notes they make in Conclave. These will be sealed in packets with the Camerlengo's report on the Conclave, and stowed away in the Vatican archives. The intention is to reduce to a minimum the danger of individual selections coming to light.
After swearing the Conclave oath of secrecy in general congregation, the Cardinals will, on Wednesday next, hear Mass of the Holy Ghost offered in St. Peter's by the Dean of the Sacred College, Cardinal Tisserant. They will hear an address on the qualities desirable in any Pontiff they may choose, and this will be delivered by Mgr. Amleto Tondini, Secretary of Papal Briefs to Princes.
They will then proceed to the part of the Vatican Palace sealed off for the Conclave, where all this week workmen have been working furiously to put up electors' thrones, arrange their cells, and black out all windows.
Cardinals may be attended by one assistant each, who are also bound to secrecy. They cast lots for the bare cells, furnished with the minimum requirements, where they will rest and sleep. Any Cardinal wishing to do the equivalent of sporting his oak may do so by putting two wooden bars across his door in the form of a St. Andrew's Cross.
Thin diet Although no longer kept on a bread and water diet, the Cardinals' food will be of the simplest. Sealed off with them will be a handful of cooks, servants, a chemist and a doctor, a confessor, the Secretary of the Sacred College, six Masters of Ceremonies, and the Sacristan of the Apostolic Palace.
All entrances will be bricked
up, except for one main door, guarded on the outside by Prince Sigismondi Chigi, whose family have been Conclave custodians for two and a half centuries. and on the inside by the Governor of the Conclave, Mgr. Federico Calori di Vignale. whose name appears on the interregnum coinage of the Vatican.
Vested in violet cassocks, rochete and pectoral crosses. the Cardinal Electors will proceed first to the Pauline Chapel for a Veni Creator, and then to the Sistine Chapel, where the ballots will take place.
The form There, standing all round the walls, are special thrones for the Electors, one for each Cardinal, whether present or not. All the
canopies are raised until the election, when every Cardinal. other than the one chosen to be Pontiff, will lower their canopies in token of submission.
After the proclamation Extra Omnes, ordering all unauthorised persons to withdraw, the Careerlengo, Cardinal Masella, and the three Cardinals of the Particular Congregation advising him will tour the Conclave area, and satisfy themselves that all is in order. They will then witness the closing and locking of the entrance.
Every day, each Cardinal celebrates Mass in his cell. and then goes, after breakfast, to a community Mass in the Pauline Chapel. There are usually two ballots in the morning, and two every evening. After the 9 o'clock evening meal, the announcement In reliant, Domini, sends them off to bed.
There are three forms of election; per inspirationem (when. as in the case of the English Pope Adrian IV, everyone chose the same man by universal acclamation); per compromisum, when the Cardinals elect a select committee to choose the Pope; or, as is
usual per scrutinium, the counting of the ballot papers.
These are oblong slips, bearing the printed words Eligo in Summum Pontificem R. Meum D. Card — and then a space for
the chosen name. The Elector
writes in the name, and folds the paper once. He then approaches
the altar, when six great candles blaze. and kneels before it in prayer.
He then takes a sacred oath: "I call to witness Jesus Christ. who will judge me, that I am electing him who, before God, I judge should be elected." He rises, ascends to the altar where a large chalice and paten await him. He places the ballot paper on the paten. slides it into the chailice, and withdraws.
Tellers then check that the number of papers correspond with the number of Cardinals. If this is in order, they take the count and announce the result. Traditionally, if the result is inconclusive, the ballot papers, strung together on a needle, are burnt in an old stove with damp straw to produce a black smoke which tells the waiting crowds outside that there is as yet no new Pope.
When the decisive ballot is taken, the chosen Cardinal is asked: Acceptasne elec.:bonen, de le Cartonice Priam in Romanum Pontificent? (Do you accept the Canonical election of yourself as Roman Pontiff?) If he agrees, he answers : Accepto.
The name Then. if the tradition is still followed, the ballot papers will he burnt with dry straw to produce the white smoke that tolls the crowd the good news. It will then fall to Cardinal Ottaviani, as the senior Cardinal Deacon. to announce to the crowds from the balcony of St. Peter: Habetnus Papam, and to declare his name.
Before facing the crowds to give his blessing Urbi et Orhi, the new Pope must first choose the name he wishes to bear as Sovereign Pontiff. More than half the Roman Pontiffs so far have chosen names from a kind of "Top Twelve" list.
They are Benedict, Clement, Gregory, John, Pius, Innocent, Stephen, Boniface, Urban, Alexander and Adrian. But if the next Holy Father is anything like Pope John, then anything at all might happen.