Cardinal O'Brien prepares for Conclave.  

On Monday 18 April, the Conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II will begin in Rome. The election begins with a mass in St Peter's celebrated by all the cardinals who then process to the Sistine Chapel, where voting takes place.  

Commenting on the conclave, Cardinal Keith O'Brien who is in Rome, said; " This is the beginning of a great and serious 'retreat' for myself and my fellow cardinals as we prepare in a spirit of deep prayer and recollection for the election of a successor to Pope John Paul II. I have been intensely moved by the outpourings of love for the late Pope - both in Scotland and here in Rome at the beautiful and dignified funeral."  

Cardinal O'Brien added; "I pray to God that the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire all the cardinals as we pray and work to find a suitable successor to John Paul Ii as our Supreme Pastor."  


Catholic Media Office  

Note to Editors, a summary of the election process appears below, for further information, visit:  

The cardinals take an oath promising secrecy and the order is given, Extra omnes ("all outside"). The oath of secrecy forbids them to communicate with anyone not involved in the election, or even to disclose details of the votes when the election is over.  

Voting begins on the first day, when one ballot is held in the afternoon if possible. If the first ballot does not produce a result, there are two ballots each morning and each afternoon until a result is declared.  

The ballot paper is divided in two: the top half carries the words "Eligo in Summum Pontificem" (I elect as pope...) and the bottom half is blank for the name to be written in. The handwriting on the bottom part should not be identifiable as belonging to any cardinal, and the inclusion of a second name will render the ballot null and void. The Master of Ceremonies and others leave, the doors of the Sistine Chapel are closed and the vote begins.  

After each ballot, if a name has received two-thirds of the votes, the pope has been elected. If the first ballot does not produce a result, the process is repeated for three days only. After three days of unsuccessful voting, the procedure is suspended for a day to give time for prayer, reflection and informal discussions. The voting then begins again for a series of seven more ballots. If there is still no conclusion, another pause is taken before a further seven ballots. If this still does not produce a result, one more pause and another series of seven ballots follow. Finally, however, the cardinals are addressed by the Chamberlain about what to do next.  

The election goes forward in the way that the majority of electors decide. A result can now come from an absolute majority or by a vote on the two names that received the largest number of votes in the last ballot. Here, too, an absolute majority is required.  

The successful candidate is then asked by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?" When he gives his agreement he is then asked what name he will choose as pope. This agreement and choice is then signed and (assuming that the person is already a bishop) he is immediately Bishop of Rome. The cardinals pay him their respects and the Cardinal Deacon announces the result of the election to the people in St. Peter's Square. The new pope comes out and gives them his blessing. There is no longer a coronation ceremony, but the pontificate is inaugurated at a ceremony in St Peter's a short time later - in the case of Pope John Paul II it was six days later.  

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