680How to pick a new pope
- Apr 1, 2005http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=2&ObjectID=10118256
How to pick a new pope
The gravity of the Pope's latest medical bulletins
have inevitably turned attention to the nature of the
process by which his successor is chosen, an ancient
and convoluted mechanism.
The College of Cardinals elects the new Pope in
conclave, which is the process of sequestering the
voting members of the college in Vatican City so that
they have no contact with the outside world. The word
"conclave" comes from the Latin phrase "cum clavis",
meaning "with key".
The term is suitable since the cardinals are locked
inside the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace
during the voting.
A conclave begins no earlier than 15 days and no later
than 20 days after the Pope's death.
Cardinals participating in conclave stay in St
Martha's House, a hospice inside the Vatican that has
130 rooms. Arrangements are made to ensure that the
cardinals are not approached as they are transported
between St Martha's and the Sistine Chapel.
Pope John Paul II himself described the complex
procedures that will be used to elect the 265th
successor to St Peter in Universi Dominici Gregis
(UDG), an Apostolic Constitution issued by the Pope in
1996. It is an accepted practice for popes to publish
the norms that regulate the election of their
successors, and they often make small adjustments to
John Paul II explained that these changes are made
"with the intention of responding to the needs of the
particular historical moment".
According to the UDG, the current rules for electing a
new pope are:
The maximum number of electors from the College of
Cardinals is 120. The college is currently composed of
Any cardinal who turns 80 before the day the Papacy is
vacated, either by death or resignation, cannot take
part in the election.
Currently, 135 cardinals are eligible to vote under
this rule (15 of those 135 would be disqualified from
the vote because the limit is 120).
A two-thirds-plus-one majority is required to elect a
Two ballots each are held in the morning and
afternoon, for a total of four a day.
If a new pope is not selected after 12 to 13 days, the
cardinals may choose to impose a majority vote, which
would allow selection of a new pope by a simple
Each rectangular ballot is inscribed at the top with
the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem, meaning "I elect
as supreme pontiff". Below these words, each cardinal
writes down the name of the person he chooses as the
The vote is done in secret with paper and pen.
The voting cardinal then folds the ballot twice, holds
it in the air, and carries it the chapel's altar.
The cardinal places the ballot on a plate that sits
atop the ballot receptacle and uses the plate to drop
the ballot into the receptacle.
Three scrutineers, who are selected by all of the
cardinals, are charged with counting the ballots. Once
the ballots are collected, the scrutineers count the
ballots to determine if everyone has voted. If the
number of ballots doesn't match the number of
electors, the ballots are immediately burned and
another vote is taken.
The steps for the vote-tallying procedure are:
The first scrutineer takes a ballot, notes the name on
it, and passes it to the next scrutineer.
The second scrutineer notes the name and passes it to
the third scrutineer.
The third scrutineer reads aloud the name on the
ballot, pierces the ballot with a needle through the
word Eligo at the top of the ballot, and slides the
ballot on to a string of thread.
Once all ballots are read, the scrutineers write down
the official count on a separate sheet of paper.
The third scrutineer ties the ends of the thread on
which the ballots are placed in a knot to preserve the
The ballots are placed in a receptacle.
After each vote, the ballots and any notes regarding
them are burned. Smoke from the burning of the ballots
appears over the Vatican Palace.
If no pope has been chosen, a chemical is applied to
the ballots to create black smoke when burned. White
smoke signals that the Pope has been elected.
The newly elected Pope remains for life, or until he
Top contenders diverse group
Papal scholar John-Peter Pham has picked five leading
contenders to succeed Pope John Paul II.
He believes the next Pope must have good health, be
prepared to travel, have intellectual clout, and be
able to speak to the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
Hence the need to be multilingual - ideally in
Italian, Latin, English, Spanish, French and German.
Plus he needs to have pastoral experience. His top
Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, Italy - the Archbishop of
Milan, is the frontrunner. Tettamanzi is a pastor and
an intellectual and as someone close to John Paul II,
insiders say he he represents continuity, but with new
ideas. Tettamanzi can count on the support of Cardinal
Giovanni Battista Re, who heads the bishops'
congregation, and Camillo Ruini, head of the Italian
Church. He's also close to Opus Dei, the
ultraconservative Catholic group.
Francis Arinze 73, Nigeria - Archbishop Emeritus of
Onitsha, Nigeria, pro-president of the secretariat for
Non-Christians. In 2002, after serving as the head of
the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, he
was named the head of the Congregation for Divine
Worship and Discipline of Sacraments. Arinze is a
conservative who takes a hardline position on abortion
and contraception and denounces homosexuality.
Christoph Schonborn, 60, Austria - Archbishop of
Vienna. Schonborn is titled aristocracy related to
every European royal family. Also a brilliant
theologian with sensitivity to the Christian East,
orthodoxy and Eastern bloc Catholics.
But his relatively young age and that he comes from
the German camp could work against him.
Angelo Scola, 64, Italy - the Patriarch of Venice. A
scholar and a moderate, Scola is likely to have the
backing of Opus Dei.
Severino Poletto, 72, Italy - the Archbishop of Turin.
Poletto was named Bishop of Asti last year. His
prospects derive from his spiritual and pastoral
qualities and his links to Vatican secretary of state,
But an article in BusinessWeek - Why The Next Pope May
Be A Surprise - puts forward a number of other
possibilities. Mumbai's archbishop Ivan Dias, a friend
of Mother Teresa, is seen as an outside possibility.
He does does, however, speak 16 languages.
Honduran Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, speaks Spanish,
near-perfect English and Italian, and decent French,
Portuguese, German and Greek. He teamed with Bono to
campaign against third world debt and is known for his
work with the poor. Latin Americans make up more than
50 per cent of all Catholics.
Another Third World favourite is Cardinal Claudio
Hummes of Brazil, a moderate who has spoken out on
human rights issues.
Seventy-one-year-old Cardinal Godfried Danneels of
Brussels is also a possibility, but he is thought too
Joseph Ratzinger 78, is seen as a possible
transitional Pope - a German who has been John Paul's
enforcer on Church doctrine and is a social conservative.