Selecting Pope Benedict XVI: the election process
After the reigning pope dies -- or in very rare instances resigns -- the
cardinals gather in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel to select a new pope.
Theoretically, any male Roman Catholic can be chosen. In practice, one of the
cardinals is picked. Four ballots are generally conducted each day -- two in the morning
and two in the afternoon. Each time an unsuccessful pair of ballots has been
completed, chemicals are added to the ballot papers before they are burned in a
small stove. This produces black smoke which is visible above the roof of the chapel. When the
new pope has been chosen, the papers are
burned with the addition of other chemicals to produce white smoke. This
announces to the world that the conclave has selected the new pope..
The highest ranking cardinal emerges from the chapel. He tells the public gathered in St.
Peter's Square the name of the new pope. The newly elected pope then emerges and
gives his first papal blessing: Urbi et Orbi ("To the City and to the World"). 1
In 1978, the conclave selected Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice as pope on the fourth ballot, which was held on the second day. He chose the name
John Paul. Later in 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland was elected on the eighth ballot which occurred on the third day. He selected the
name John Paul II. The conclave began its work to pick his successor on Monday, 2005-APR-18.
They concluded their work the next day after about five ballots. 2
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 78, of Germany was elected pope
on 2005-APR-19, on the second day of the 2005 conclave. He has selected the name
Benedict XVI. His election was announced to the world at 6:43 PM, Vatican City
He was the archbishop of Munich, Germany, and dean
of the College of Cardinals. He has headed the Congregation for the Doctrine
of Faith since 1981. He has personally written many extremely conservative
documents concerning church theology. His congregation has cancelled the
teaching licenses of many liberal Roman Catholic theologians, one of the most
notable being Hans Küng.
CNN News commented:
"He has been the driving force behind the
Vatican's crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, challenges to
traditional moral teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on such
issues as women's ordination."
His election may well place an immense strain
on relationships between the Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy in such
relatively liberal countries as the U.S., Canada and Holland. 3
Topics covered in this section:
Two related essays on this web site:
Amazon.com, the world's biggest online bookstore, has the following books available on the topic of papal elections that you can safely order:
If a generic Amazon.com ad appears, clicking on your browser's refresh button will usually display a book selection
- Nino Lo Bello, "The incredible book of Vatican facts and papal curiosities. A treasury of trivia," Barns & Noble, (1998),
Pages 35 & 36. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com
online book store
- Frances D'Emilio, "Can Italy's cardinals regain their lock on papacy?," Associated Press, 2005-APR-14.
- "Ratzinger a close confidant of John Paul II," CNN News, 2005-APR-19,
- A video showing the announcement and Pope Benedict XVI's first blessing is
available at: Jackson's Junction, http://treyjackson.typepad.com/
Copyright © 2005 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-APR-01
Latest update: 2012-MAR-08
Author: B.A. Robinson