Page 7, 21st June 1963

21st June 1963
Page 7
Page 7, 21st June 1963 — LETTER FROM ROME

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Locations: ROME, Canterbury


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by Alan McElwain UNDER the title "Piazza Giovanni XXIII", the Daily American, only Englishlanguage newspaper published in Rome, prints this little editorial which I am sure you will like as much as I do: "The city of Rome says it will name one of its piazzas for Pope John .XXIII, who captured the affection and admiration of the

whole world as perhaps no other Pope has done.

"The piazza has not been chosen yet, and we hope one will be found that will harmonise with the character of its patron. It should be large, with a view to the most distant horizon, and there should be trees and paths and plenty of unfenced lawn where children may play. And if there isn't already a piazza like that, they should make one".

Be the conclave to elect successor to Pope John short or long, it is not likely to beat the alltime record of two years, nine months and two days, established between 1268 and 1271 when Pope Gregory X was elected successor to Pope Clement IV. That conclave was held in Viterbo, with 18 cardinals taking pan, After the first 17 months of ecclesiastical dallying, the people, impatient for a new pontiff, decided to hurry things atong. Led by St. Bonaventure, they demanded that the doors of the Archbishop's Palace. where the cardinals were assembled, be sealed, the idea being that once their Eminences found themselves cut off from the comforts of the outside world, they would be only too anxious to get back to them.

Nothing doing. The cardinals continued to delay and argue until the exasperated Prefect of Viterbo, ordered the removal of the palace roof. Flayed by winter's rain and cold. Cardinal Enrico Borromei, Bishop of Ostia, was removed to hospital, seriously ill. The historic document granting him permission to quit the palace, ends with the words, "Dated at Viterbo, in the unroofed Palace of the Archbishop . ." Finally. on September I. 1271, Pope Gregory X was elected.

By this time, he, too, had had enough and early in his pontificate he issued hit famous constitution, "Ubi Periculum", in which he fixed rules for the election of future popes. Various popes. including the late Pius XII and John XXIII, made modifications. but the basic formula has remained throughout the centuries.

The word "conclave" comes from the Latin "cum cave",

meaning to close with a key. Actually, the locking of cardinals to keep them in complete seclusion during a conclave, first occurred in 1198 when a papal election was being held in Perugia. There the people, impatient like those in Viterbo more than 50 years later, sealed the cardinals in to speed the election of Pope Innocent 111.


The proceedings in the present conclave, from the first balloting in the Sistine Chapel until the new Pope is presented to the world from the balcony above the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica, will be traditional, colourful, moving and dramatic --but not quite as dramatic as some incidents which intruded upon past papal elections.

• In 1281, intruders broke into the conclave that elected Pope Martin IV and kidnapped two cardinals belonging to Italy's illustrious Orsini family. The Cardinal of Canterbury died of shock.

• In 1316, during the election of Pope John XXIT, someone set fire to the building. The cardinals escaped by crawling through a narrow window.

• In 1513, Pope Leo X (of the Medici family) underwent an operation during the conclave which elected him.

• In 1522, cardinals who elected Pope Adrian VI, a Dutchman and last non-Italian pope, were stoned and jeered by irate Roman crowds as they left the conclave, • In 1592, a moment after Pope • Clement V111 had been elected, Cardinal Della Revere collapsed and died in his arms.

In early days, once a new pope had been elected, people would start to demolish and loot the palace in which his predecessor had lived. It was also customary for the populace to bet openly and recklessly on the result of papal elections.

In 1562, Pope Pius IV declared this a grave sin and Pope Gregory XIV, who reigned from 1590 to 1591, threatened to excommunicate the gamblers and also deprive of their office prelates or priests who transgressed. To this day. however, lively national "flutters" are held on the outcome of con cave voting.

Shottest papal election in history was in 1503, when Pope Julian II was chosen in a few hours. Pope Pius IX reigned longest of any Pope 31 years 7 months and 23 days, exceeding the 25 years' reign of St. Peter. That is why a mosaic of Pius IX appears above the bronze figure of St. Peter in St, Peter's Basilica.


About 80 people, over and above the cardinals and their conclavists (each cardinal is permitted one attendant) are in this conclave this time. They include barbers, plumbers, firemen and other "handy men". The barbers are the brothers Cesare and Augusto Ceccarelli, who also did service during the 1958 conclave. They recall that Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, who was to emerge as Pope John XXIII, apologised to them for using an electric razor.

For the first time, an electrical communications system -the sort of thing that links kitchen to dining rooms in big establishments is connecting the inner conclave area to the outer one, but it cannot be used without permission of the Conclave Marshal on the outside and the Conclave Secretary inside. There is also an internal telephone system which permits cardinals allotted cells some distance apart to communicate with one another.

Two special kitchens and dining rooms have been installed for the cardinals, their attendants and others. Cooking arrangements are being handled by nuns who normally are in charge of Santa Marta, one of the buildings within the, Vatican where priests attached to the Holy See live.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, meals were conveyed from outside to cardinals in conclave and this provided the populace with one of its gayest spectacles. They gathered in large crowds to watch servants in luxurious carriages bringing meals on gold and silver dishes from the palaces of their masters within.

The cardinals have drawn lots for their cells in the famous Borgia Apartments and adjacent rooms. Some of them are finding themselves in odd places. In the 1958 conclave, the Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, French Cardinal Eugenio Tisserant, slept in a room in the armoury, surrounded by suits of armour, swords, pikes, cudgels and other warlike accoutrements.

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