Inside the Curia: Voting Procedure on Papal Selection

Reports reveal the politicking and voting procedure that resulted in the selection of the first non-European pontiff.  Of the 114 cardinals only 47–an odd number–voted, with informal guidelines suggesting that a “runner up” would not be selected. Two MCs (non-cardinals) pass out the ballots, and a very detailed system entails

The most authoritative accounts of that election suggest Cardinal Bergoglio garnered the second most votes to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the penultimate round. Then, at lunch, he was said to have thrown his votes to Cardinal Ratzinger, who was quickly elected Benedict XVI. Some accounts suggest he did not want to be pope; others, that he knew he did not have a chance of winning.Renunciation is not unheard-of. “People say, ‘Don’t consider me,’ ” said Chicago’s archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, in an interview, and that was the case this time as well. “Some people were very disturbed by the idea” that they might be considered for pope, he said.

via New Pope’s Piety and Humility Aided His Surprise Selection –

More details via globalpost on the exact process, which includes ceremony as much as voting dynamics–much of the latter occurring before and after, in ‘caucusing’:

  • Lots are drawn to select nine of the cardinals, three of whom will serve as “scrutineers”, three “infirmarii” to collect the votes of cardinals who fall ill, and three “revisers” who check the ballot counting down by the scrutineers.
  • Cardinals are given rectangular ballots inscribed at the top with the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem (“I elect as supreme pontiff”) with a blank space underneath.
  • After all non-cardinals have left the chapel, they write down the name of their choice for future pope, preferably in handwriting which cannot be identified as their own, and fold the ballot paper twice.
  • Each cardinal takes it in turns to walk to the altar, carrying his vote in the air so that it can be clearly seen, and says aloud the following oath:
  • “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.”

A longer discussion on the implications with professor John M. Hunt are worth watching–available from the @BYUKennedyCtr.




3 thoughts on “Inside the Curia: Voting Procedure on Papal Selection”

  1. This is a very interesting post, as the process of electing a new pope surely contains as much politics as any other type of election. Despite traditions and the significant religious nature of the process, it must take a lot of negotiating and diplomacy to come to a decision. I’ve always been interested in finding out how the discussions between the cardinals play out in ultimately electing unanimously one from among their midst to become the new leader of the Catholic Church.

  2. I agree. I am always amazed that the pope is elected unanimously. The negotiation and bargaining that goes on during this decision is incredible. It would be nice if we could apply these same strategies to other diplomatic decisions.

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