The unfolding of the conclave

Source: FSSPX News

The Mass Pro eligendo romano pontifice [For the election of the Roman Pontiff] was celebrated on March 12 at 10:00 in Saint Peter’s Basilica, according to the resolutions made by the General Congregation of Cardinals on March 8.  Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at the liturgy.

In the afternoon, the cardinal electors walked in procession from the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace to the Sistine Chapel, while chanting the Litany of the Saints and following the crucifer.  At the end of the procession, a deacon carrying the book of the Gospels preceded Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who presided over the conclave.  Besides the 115 cardinal electors, others taking part in this procession were the secretary of the college of cardinals, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, the master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, Monsignor Guido Marini, and (non-elector) Cardinal Prosper Grech, who was charged with presenting to the cardinals the meditation before the opening of the conclave, as well as the masters of ceremonies and the singers of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir.

After taking the seat that was assigned to each of them in the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals intoned the chant Veni Creator Spiritus.  Then, in the presence of the persons who had participated in the solemn procession, they pronounced [in Latin] the prescribed oath.  Cardinal Re then pronounced this formula:

“We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum [Petrine office] of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

Each Cardinal elector then, following the hierarchical order of precedence, swore the following formula:  “And I, [first name] Cardinal [last name], do so promise, pledge and swear.”  Placing his right hand on the Book of Gospels presented by the masters of ceremonies, he added:  “So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.”

When the last of the Cardinal electors had taken the oath, the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations pronounced the “Extra omnes” so that those not participating in the Conclave would leave the Sistine Chapel. Then he shut the heavy wooden doors that separate the Sistine Chapel from the Regia [Royal Hall].

Then, in the presence of the Cardinal electors, Cardinal Grech spoke, presenting a “meditation concerning the grave duty incumbent on them”, as specified by the Ordo rituum conclavis [Order of Rites of the Conclave].  At the end of that meditation, the preacher and the papal masters of ceremonies left the premises also.  The Papal Swiss Guard was posted at all the entrances to the chapel, and the first vote took place.

This 2-day conclave is one of the shortest duration when compared with preceding conclaves.  In 1846 the election of Pius IX was achieved in 3 days, from June 14 to 16.  In 1878, Leo XIII was elected after a 3-day conclave, from February 18 to 20.  In 1903, Saint Pius X was elected, and conclave lasted 5 days, from July 31 to August 4.  In 1914, the conclave that elected Benedict XV lasted 4 days, from August 31 to September 4.  In 1922, the conclave that elected Pius XI lasted 5 days, from February 2 to 6;  there were 7 ballots.  The conclave that elected Pius XII in 1939 was shorter;  it lasted two days, from March 1 to 2, and there were 3 ballots.  John XXIII was elected in 1958, during a 4-day conclave, from October 25 to 28, on the 11th ballot.  In 1963, the conclave lasted 3 days, from June 19 to 21, and Paul VI was elected after 6 ballots.  In 1978, the conclave that elected John Paul I was the first in which cardinals over the age of 80 did not participate;  it lasted two days, from August 25 to 26, with 4 ballots.  During the second conclave in 1978, in the 3 days from October 14 to 16, 111 electors elected John Paul II at the end of 8 ballots.  In 2005, Benedict XVI was elected pope on the fourth ballot of a conclave that lasted 2 days, from April 18 to 19, in which the largest number of cardinal electors in history participated:  115, like the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, after 5 ballots.

(Sources:  VIS/Apic/Imedia/KTO – DICI no. 272, dated March ##, 2013)

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