How to Know Who the Pope is Faster Than (almost) Everyone Else

shutterstock_130454210The day will come soon. White smoke will billow out of the famous chimney (which by the way has its own unofficial Twitter handle: @papalsmokestack). St. Peter’s bells will ring. People will flood into St. Peter’s square while millions rush to their TVs to hear who the next Pope will be.

Eventually, the world will be told who the next Pope will be by the Protodeacon who in this case is Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran will announce the great news…in Latin.

Fortunately for us, there is a standard formula to what is said. Knowing this formula can help you know what is going on and who is Pope even before it is translated.

Here’s the breakdown. A pause is usually given between each one:

1.      He addresses the crowd, “Dear Brothers and Sisters.” This was added in for the first time (I believe) with the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It was given in Italian, Spanish, German, French, and English. I assume this will happen again with Arabic being thrown into the mix as this was added as an official language in October of 2012.

2.      He tells us what we already knew, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; Habemus Papam.” In English, “I announce to you a great joy;  We have a Pope.”

3.      He tells us the new Pope’s baptismal name (his first name), “Eminentissimum ac reverndissiumum Dominum, Dominum [First Name].” In English, “the most eminent and most reverend Lord, Lord [First Name].” There usually is a slight pause between the Lords for dramatic effect.

4.      He tells us the Pope’s last name, “Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [Last Name].” In English, “Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church [Last Name].”

5.      He tells us the Pope’s new Papal name, “Qui sibi nomen imposuit [Papal Name].” In English, “Who takes for himself the name of [Papal Name].”

To see how this all plays out, check out this video with English sub-titles of when Pope Benedict XVI was named Pope.



Now, to figuring out who the Pope is faster than (almost) everyone else.

As in the case of the announcement of Pope Benedict, the Protodeacon briefly pauses after the first name creating a little bit of suspense. Notice in the Pope Benedict XVI clip that some cheer when they hear Iosephus (Joseph), but not everyone. The first name is always given in Latin making it a little difficult to understand what the name is.

Here’s a quick key to some of the frontrunners in Latin:

Petrum (Peter) – e.g. Peter Turkson and Peter Erdo

Angelum (Angelo) – e.g. Angelo Scola or Angelo Bagnasco

Marcum (Marc) – e.g. Marc Ouellet

Ioannem Francus (Gianfranco)—e.g. Gianfranco Ravasi

Leonardum (Leonardo) – e.g. Leonardo Sandri

Christophorum (Christoph) – e.g. Christoph Schonborn

Timotheum (Timothy) – e.g. Timothy Dolan

Ioannem (John/Sean) – e.g. Sean O’Malley

You do have to remember that with some first names there are multiple cardinals with the same first name so you can’t always be for sure.

Check out this video of John Paul II’s election announcement.



After watching this a few times, there are several notable things that standout:

  1. The commentator is Peter Jennings, which I thought was pretty neat.
  2.  Fr. Vincent O’Keefe, who serves as the Catholic commentator, knows the trick of the first name. If you listen with the volume turned up loud enough, you can hear an audible gasp from Fr. O’Keefe and then the muttering of Wotyjla after “Carolum” (Karol).
  3. If you listen closely, you can hear that the murmuring of the crowd is almost as loud as the cheering. The mostly Italian audience who had gathered in St. Peter’s square didn’t know who the new Pope was.

As retold by George Weigel in Witness to Hope:

“At the unfamiliar name, chaotic questioning started in the square. ‘Chi è?’ [Who?] was the first thing tens of thousands of people asked. ‘È nero?’ an Italian said to Jerzy Turowicz—‘Is it a black?’ ‘È Asiatic?’ [Asian?] someone else asked.”

Well, hopefully, those two clips get you excited for when the next Pope will be named and will help you grasp and understand who will be elected when the announcement comes.


Article courtesy of Focus.
Rostislav Glinsky /


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Kevin Cotter serves FOCUS as the Director of FOCUS Equip and the Director of Web. Previously, Kevin served FOCUS as an on campus missionary at Benedictine College. Kevin holds a BA degree in Religious Studies from Benedictine College and a MA degree in Sacred Scripture from the Augustine Institute. Kevin currently resides in Denver, CO with his wife, Lisa, and their children. Twitter: @kevinrcotter

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