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June 11th, 2012
How do Catholics elect the Pope?

When it comes time to elect a new pope, the College of Cardinals gets together to convene what is referred to as a papal conclave, during which they vote on who will become the next successor of St. Peter. Watch this video to find out more about what happens during the conclave and the ins and outs of the voting.


Today’s homework assignment: Watch this video and in the comments section below tell us something you learned from the video or share something that you know about picking a pontiff.

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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • joe from Busted Halo

    Thanks, Rob. According to Code of Canon Law, Can. 332 §2: “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.”

    so basically, in order for the Pope to resign, he just needs to do so freely. and some further clarification i just gained from the wikipedia page, “Canon law does not specify any particular individual or body or people to whom the Pope must manifest his resignation, leaving perhaps open the possibility of doing so to the Church or the world in general. But some commentators hold that the college of cardinals or at least its Dean must be informed, since the cardinals must be absolutely certain that the Pope has renounced the dignity before they can validly proceed to elect a successor.”


    a few more fun tidbits from Wikipedia:

    The last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII (1406–1415), who did so to end the Western Schism, which had reached the point where there were three claimants to the papal throne, Roman Pope Gregory XII, Avignon Antipope Benedict XIII, and Pisan Antipope John XXIII. Before resigning he formally convened the already existing Council of Constance and authorized it to elect his successor.

    Alleged conditional resignations not put into effect:
    Before setting out for Paris to crown Napoleon in 1804, Pope Pius VII (1800–1823), signed a document of resignation to take effect if he were imprisoned in France.

    It has been claimed that during World War II, Pius XII drew up a document with instructions that, if he were kidnapped by the Nazis, he was to be considered to have resigned his office, and the Cardinals were to flee to neutral Portugal and elect a successor.

    Pope John Paul II wrote a letter of resignation in case if he were to come down with an incurable disease or if anything happened that would keep him from fulfilling his duties.

  • Rob

    Well done video. I didn’t realize that a Pope could resign. Are there special circumstances for that to happen?

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