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How is the Pope chosen? | The Vacancy of the Apostolic Seat

Reading this article, you will understand how the Pope was chosen and the procedure for electing the Pontiff of the Catholic Church, according to the Apostolic Constitution.

Vacancy of the Apostolic Seat

Usually, with the death of the Pope. In this case, it will begin at 8 pm on February 28, 2013. At that moment all th, all the Heads of the Roman Curia Departments, the Cardinal Secretary of State, the Cardinal Prefects,e Presidents expire Archbishops. As well as the members of the same Dicasteries. An exception is made for the Camerlengo of Santa Romana Chiesa (Card. Bertone) and the Penitentiary Major (Card. Monteiro de Castro). Who carries out ordinary business?

In this period, the College of Cardinals had no power or jurisdiction over the matters of the Supreme Pontiff, which would exclusively be reserved for the future Pontiff. Only government actions relating to the order or non-postponable business will be possible.

Two Congregations of cardinals will deal with the affairs of the Church: a General Congregation made up of the entire College. And a particular Congregation composed of final Camerlengo and three cardinals electing the chosen Pope. In this specification, only minor issues are addressed as they arise.

Representation of the Congregation choosing the Pope

how is the pope chosen

Source: AsiaNews

The Electors

The PopThe College of Cardinal electors chooses the Pope as those who have not turned 80 on the day on which the vacancy of the Apostolic Seat begins. There cannot be more than 120 currently, Currently117. Cardinals over eighty only participate in the preparatory meetings of the Conclave.

The choice of the Pope must begin on the fifteenth day from the beginning of the vacant Seat (therefore, March 15). , Or in any case, no later than 20 days. The place of the election is the traditional one of the Sistine Chapel.

The election takes place by secret ballot, and the cardinals are bound to secrecy. On everything that in any way to do with the election of the Roman Pontiff. Both during and after that election. They are about the solemn oath that binds them: and the entire Conclave duration. The Cardinal electors are obliged to live in total isolation from the outside. They can communicate nothing. To be valid, the election must always take place by a majority of two-thirds of the Cardinal electors present. 

Election of the Roman Pontiff: the procedure Three cardinal

Each Cardinal Elector secretly writes his favourite’s name on the ballot and folds the sheet in two. After that, when it’s his turn, he goes to deliver the vote to the voters’ table at the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The ballots are voted in an urn. The Scrutineers shuffle the polls and vote for him (if the count does not correspond to the number of voters. The voting must be restarted). And then read the contents aloud. Then the votes are counted, it is checked that the whole procedure has taken place correctly, and the ball and lots are burned.

If a Cardinal has not obtained the votes of two-thirds of the electors, another vote is taken immediately. Four votes will be held each day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. On the first day of the Conclave, starting the election in the afternoon, there will be only one ballot. After 34 unsuccessful polls, the polls will be voted between the two Cardinals who received the most votes. And a two-thirds majority will always be required. (This is an innovation of Benedict XVI in 2007; the Universi Dominici Gregis envisaged at this point the simple majority). To guarantee the widest rearmost comprehensive of the chosen Pope.

After the election

The Cardinal Dean asks the chosen Pope: “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?” And having received the consent, he asks him, “How do you want to be called?”

At the moment of acceptance, the chosen Pope is immediately Bishop of the Roman Church, the true Pope. And also Head of the Episcopal College. The same acquires full and supreme power over the universal Church and can exercise it.   

Rules of conduct for the cardinal electors

In addition to the obligation of silence already mentioned, John Paul II in the Universi Dominici Gregis severely imposes – under penalty of ex-communication. The prohibition of bargaining, promises of votes, and of accepting pressure from any civil authority.  

It is then forbidden to undertake commitments by mutual agreement before the election. Forcing them, they are moving to implement them if one of them is elevated to the Pontificate. Such promises would, in any case, be void. The Cardinal electors are invited “not to be guided, in an election the Pontiff. By sympathy or aversion, or influence favour or personal relationships towards someone, or pushed by the intervention of authoritative persons or pressure groups. Or by the suggestion of social media, by violence, fear, or popularity. 

But they have only the glory of God and the good of the Church before their eyes the interest of the Church. After having implored divine help, let them give their vote to the one. Who, even outside the College of Cardinals, will have judged more suitable than others to govern the Church with fruit and benefit? Universal”.

An election of the whole Church

The election of the new Pontiff must not be an isolated fact from the People of God. And concerning only the College of electors. But, in a certain sense, an action of the whole church.

In the time of the Sede Vacante, and especially during the period in which the election of the Successor of Peter is taking place. The Church is united in a very particular way with the sacred Pastors, especially with the Cardinal electors of the Supreme Pontiff. And implores from God the new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence. 


In all the cities and other places, as soon as the vacancy of the Apostolic Seat has begun, “humble and insistent prayers to the Lord must be raised so that he may enlighten the hearts of the electors and make them so in agreement in their task that a solicitation is obtained, unanimous and fruitful election. As the health of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand.

A particular recommendation for Cardinals who, due to their age, no longer enjoy the right to participate in the election of the Supreme Pontiff: Due to the extraordinary bond with the Apostolic Seat that the cardinal’s purple entails, they should place themselves at the helm of the People of God.

Therefore, they were gathered mainly in the Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome and the other particular Churches’ worship places. So that with assiduous and intense prayer, especially while the election is taking place, assistance and light may be obtained from the Almighty God of the Holy Spirit necessary for the electorate confreres. Thus participating effectively and honestly in the arduous task of providing the universal Church with its Shepherd.