Conclave’s rituals, oaths, and secrecy explained

Piero Marini, former papal master of ceremonies, explains the papal transition rites he authored. Will Pope Benedict and current master of ceremonies Guido Marini tweak it?



  1. I wonder if we could see a return to the green canopied thrones of the cardinals. They used to drop the canopies over their seats once the papal-elect had accepted office. I have a hunch Guido might be looking into this.

    When one couples this with the new rule of only 25 people inside of the Sistine Chapel at one time could provide for some excitement.

    The possibilities, like the amount of lace, are really endless

    1. @Barry Moorhead – comment #1:
      Guido should give thought to having the throne of the new pope left standing,with him in it, and his own canopy left upright as he accepts the election. When his colleagues yank their own cord both the canopy and the throne itself with the cardinal seated , falls through a trap door. That should arouse plenty of excitement, not to mention reform of the church from the outset.

  2. I am surprised to read that as recently as 1903 the Emperor Franz Joseph was able to veto the leading candidate. So much for the secrecy of the conclave.

    1. @Rom Kiul – comment #3:

      Hello Rom,

      Well, two things: It apparently was not necessary to pierce the secrecy of the conclave to know that Rampolla would be a leading candidate. There was plenty of information to be had even before the conclave started. The Emperor decided to act on the worst case scenario.

      In the second place, even as it turned out that Rampolla failed to be elected, the veto was, in fact, rejected by the conclave. Some have suggested that it still exercised its desired impact despite inspiring indignation among the gathered cardinals (the Wikipedia article on the conclave regrettably reads this way). But cardinals who discussed in after years (such as Merry de Val) have suggested that Rampolla’s chances were always exaggerated.

    2. @Rom Kiul – comment #3:

      The veto was presented by a Polish cardinal, who had obtained it from the Emperor before the conclave. Apparently the Austrian cardinal refused to do it, so opposition to such maneuvers was broad. The conclave secretary, Merry del Val, at first refused to accept the papers.

      Rampolla was the front runner, but he peaked at 30 out of 64 votes. That came after the veto, and it was clear he would not get more.

      There is a delightful Italian film Habemus Papam that spoofs conclaves. When the elected candidate has a panic attack, the conclave is prolonged while he seeks psychiatric help. The other cardinals are kept in the conclave with nothing to do until they organize a volleyball tournament. (Oceania’s team had only 2 players)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *