27 Things You Didn’t Know About the Conclave

20. Ballot paper specifications. Conclave rules require the following of the ballot paper: it has to be rectangular, capable of being folded in two, and, on the upper half bear the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem, Latin for, “I elect as Supreme Pontiff.”

21. Handwriting guidelines: Cardinals must write down the name of their choice “legibly” but they must also disguise their handwriting so that it is not clearly recognizable as their own.

22. Needle in the ballots: As each ballot is read out by a Scrutineer, he pierces it with a needle, which goes through the word Eligo. The ballots are all threaded together and the ends are twisted into a knot after all the ballots have been counted, according to current conclave guidelines.

23. Ballots aren’t the only things burned. Any notes the cardinals have made during the process are thrown into the fire too.

24. Cardinals can’t watch the news, listen to the radio, or even read newspapers or magazines during the conclave.

25. Two oaths: You may have seen the cardinals on Tuesday taking an oath to follow the rules and observe strict secrecy regarding the deliberations of the conclave. They also take a second oath each time they approach the altar to drop off their ballots. The second oath reads as follows: I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected.

26. A cardinal can legally break silence about a conclave after the fact only if given express permission by the new Pope.

27. Voting records from each session are otherwise kept in a sealed envelope—only to be opened if the Pope allows it.


Sources: Universi Dominici Gregis, the apostolic constitution issued by Pope John Paul II in 1996; the Catholic Encyclopedia; The Glory of Christendom, by Warren Carroll; The Next Pope by Anura Gurugé; Selecting the Pope: Uncovering the Mysteries of Papal Elections by Greg Tobin and Robert J. Wister; and Church historian Salvador Miranda.

Image credit: shutterstock.com

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Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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