JOHN PAUL II
UNIVERSI DOMINICI GREGIS
ON THE VACANCY
OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE
AND THE ELECTION
OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF
JOHN PAUL, BISHOP
SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
FOR PERPETUAL REMEMBRANCE
The Shepherd of the Lord's whole flock
is the Bishop of the Church of Rome, where the Blessed Apostle Peter, by
sovereign disposition of divine Providence, offered to Christ the supreme
witness of martyrdom by the shedding of his blood. It is therefore understandable
that the lawful apostolic succession in this See, with which "because of
its great pre-eminence every Church must agree",1 has always been the object
of particular attention.
Precisely for this reason, down the
centuries the Supreme Pontiffs have deemed it their special duty, as well
as their specific right, to establish fitting norms to regulate the orderly
election of their Successor. Thus, also in more recent times, my Predecessors
Saint Pius X,2 Pius XI,3 Pius XII,4 John XXIII 5 and lastly Paul VI,6 each
with the intention of responding to the needs of the particular historical
moment, issued wise and appropriate regulations in order to ensure the
suitable preparation and orderly gathering of the electors charged, at
the vacancy of the Apostolic See, with the important and weighty duty of
electing the Roman Pontiff.
If I too now turn to this matter, it
is certainly not because of any lack of esteem for those norms, for which
I have great respect and which I intend for the most part to confirm, at
least with regard to their substance and the basic principles which inspired
them. What leads me to take this step is awareness of the Church's changed
situation today and the need to take into consideration the general revision
of Canon Law which took place, to the satisfaction of the whole Episcopate,
with the publication and promulgation first of the Code of Canon Law and
subsequently of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. In conformity
with this revision, itself inspired by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
I then took up the reform of the Roman Curia in the Apostolic Constitution
Bonus.7 Furthermore, Canon 335 of the Code of Canon Law, restated in
Canon 47 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, makes clear the
need to issue and constantly update the specific laws regulating the canonical
provision for the Roman See, when for any reason it becomes vacant.
While keeping in mind present-day requirements,
I have been careful, in formulating the new discipline, not to depart in
substance from the wise and venerable tradition already established.
It is in fact an indisputable principle
that the Roman Pontiff has the right to define and adapt to changing times
the manner of designating the person called to assume the Petrine succession
in the Roman See. This regards, first of all, the body entrusted with providing
for the election of the Roman Pontiff: based on a millennial practice sanctioned
by specific canonical norms and confirmed by an explicit provision of the
current Code of Canon Law (Canon 349), this body is made up of the College
of Cardinals of Holy Roman Church. While it is indeed a doctrine of faith
that the power of the Supreme Pontiff derives directly from Christ, whose
earthly Vicar he is,8 it is also certain that this supreme power in the
Church is granted to him "by means of lawful election accepted by him,
together with episcopal consecration".9 A most serious duty is thus incumbent
upon the body responsible for this election. Consequently the norms which
regulate its activity need to be very precise and clear, so that the election
itself will take place in a most worthy manner, as befits the office of
utmost responsibility which the person elected will have to assume, by
divine mandate, at the moment of his assent.
Confirming therefore the norm of the
current Code of Canon Law (cf. Canon 349), which reflects the millennial
practice of the Church, I once more affirm that the College of electors
of the Supreme Pontiff is composed solely of the Cardinals of Holy Roman
Church. In them one finds expressed in a remarkable synthesis the two aspects
which characterize the figure and office of the Roman Pontiff: Roman,
identified with the Bishop of the Church in Rome and thus closely linked
to the clergy of this City, represented by the Cardinals of the presbyteral
and diaconal titles of Rome, and to the Cardinal Bishops of the suburbicarian
Sees; Pontiff of the universal Church, because called to represent
visibly the unseen Pastor who leads his whole flock to the pastures of
eternal life. The universality of the Church is clearly expressed in the
very composition of the College of Cardinals, whose members come from every
In the present historical circumstances,
the universality of the Church is sufficiently expressed by the College
of one hundred and twenty electors, made up of Cardinals coming from all
parts of the world and from very different cultures. I therefore confirm
that this is to be the maximum number of Cardinal electors, while at the
same time indicating that it is in no way meant as a sign of less respect
that the provision laid down by my predecessor Pope Paul VI has been retained,
namely, that those Cardinals who celebrate their eightieth birthday before
the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant do not take part in the election.10
The reason for this provision is the desire not to add to the weight of
such venerable age the further burden of responsibility for choosing the
one who will have to lead Christ's flock in ways adapted to the needs of
the times. This does not however mean that the Cardinals over eighty years
of age cannot take part in the preparatory meetings of the Conclave, in
conformity with the norms set forth below. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, and especially during the election of the Supreme Pontiff, they in
particular should lead the People of God assembled in the Patriarchal Basilicas
of Rome and in other churches in the Dioceses throughout the world, supporting
the work of the electors with fervent prayers and supplications to the
Holy Spirit and imploring for them the light needed to make their choice
before God alone and with concern only for the "salvation of souls, which
in the Church must always be the supreme law".11
It has been my wish to give particular
attention to the age-old institution of the Conclave, the rules and procedures
of which have been established and defined by the solemn ordinances of
a number of my Predecessors. A careful historical examination confirms
both the appropriateness of this institution, given the circumstances in
which it originated and gradually took definitive shape, and its continued
usefulness for the orderly, expeditious and proper functioning of the election
itself, especially in times of tension and upheaval.
Precisely for this reason, while recognizing
that theologians and canonists of all times agree that this institution
is not of its nature necessary for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff,
I confirm by this Constitution that the Conclave is to continue in its
essential structure; at the same time, I have made some modifications in
order to adapt its procedures to present-day circumstances. Specifically,
I have considered it appropriate to decree that for the whole duration
of the election the living-quarters of the Cardinal electors and of those
called to assist in the orderly process of the election itself are to be
located in suitable places within Vatican City State. Although small, the
State is large enough to ensure within its walls, with the help of the
appropriate measures indicated below, the seclusion and resulting concentration
which an act so vital to the whole Church requires of the electors.
At the same time, in view of the sacredness
of the act of election and thus the need for it to be carried out in an
appropriate setting where, on the one hand, liturgical actions can be readily
combined with juridical formalities, and where, on the other, the electors
can more easily dispose themselves to accept the interior movements of
the Holy Spirit, I decree that the election will continue to take place
in the Sistine Chapel, where everything is conducive to an awareness of
the presence of God, in whose sight each person will one day be judged.
I further confirm, by my apostolic
authority, the duty of maintaining the strictest secrecy with regard to
everything that directly or indirectly concerns the election process itself.
Here too, though, I have wished to simplify the relative norms, reducing
them to their essentials, in order to avoid confusion, doubts and even
eventual problems of conscience on the part of those who have taken part
in the election.
Finally, I have deemed it necessary
to revise the form of the election itself in the light of the present-day
needs of the Church and the usages of modern society. I have thus considered
it fitting not to retain election by acclamation quasi ex inspiratione,
that it is no longer an apt means of interpreting the thought of an electoral
college so great in number and so diverse in origin. It also appeared necessary
to eliminate election per compromissum, not only because of the
difficulty of the procedure, evident from the unwieldy accumulation of
rules issued in the past, but also because by its very nature it tends
to lessen the responsibility of the individual electors who, in this case,
would not be required to express their choice personally.
After careful reflection I have therefore
decided that the only form by which the electors can manifest their vote
in the election of the Roman Pontiff is by secret ballot, in accordance
with the rules set forth below. This form offers the greatest guarantee
of clarity, straightforwardness, simplicity, openness and, above all, an
effective and fruitful participation on the part of the Cardinals who,
individually and as a group, are called to make up the assembly which elects
the Successor of Peter.
With these intentions, I promulgate
the present Apostolic Constitution containing the norms which, when the
Roman See becomes vacant, are to be strictly followed by the Cardinals
whose right and duty it is to elect the Successor of Peter, the visible
Head of the whole Church and the Servant of the servants of God.
THE VACANCY OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE
THE POWERS OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS
DURING THE VACANCY OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE
1. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, the College of Cardinals has no power or jurisdiction in matters which
pertain to the Supreme Pontiff during his lifetime or in the exercise of
his office; such matters are to be reserved completely and exclusively
to the future Pope. I therefore declare null and void any act of power
or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff during his lifetime or
in the exercise of his office which the College of Cardinals might see
fit to exercise, beyond the limits expressly permitted in this Constitution.
2. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, the government of the Church is entrusted to the College of Cardinals
solely for the dispatch of ordinary business and of matters which cannot
be postponed (cf. No. 6), and for the preparation of everything necessary
for the election of the new Pope. This task must be carried out in the
ways and within the limits set down by this Constitution: consequently,
those matters are to be absolutely excluded which, whether by law or by
practice, come under the power of the Roman Pontiff alone or concern the
norms for the election of the new Pope laid down in the present Constitution.
3. I further establish that the College
of Cardinals may make no dispositions whatsoever concerning the rights
of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Church, much less allow any of these
rights to lapse, either directly or indirectly, even though it be to resolve
disputes or to prosecute actions perpetrated against these same rights
after the death or valid resignation of the Pope.12 All the Cardinals are
obliged to defend these rights.
4. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, laws issued by the Roman Pontiffs can in no way be corrected or modified,
nor can anything be added or subtracted, nor a dispensation be given even
from a part of them, especially with regard to the procedures governing
the election of the Supreme Pontiff. Indeed, should anything be done or
even attempted against this prescription, by my supreme authority I declare
it null and void.
5. Should doubts arise concerning the
prescriptions contained in this Constitution, or concerning the manner
of putting them into effect, I decree that all power of issuing a judgment
in this regard belongs to the College of Cardinals, to which I grant the
faculty of interpreting doubtful or controverted points. I also establish
that should it be necessary to discuss these or other similar questions,
except the act of election, it suffices that the majority of the Cardinals
present should concur in the same opinion.
6. In the same way, should there be
a problem which, in the view of the majority of the assembled Cardinals,
cannot be postponed until another time, the College of Cardinals may act
according to the majority opinion.
THE CONGREGATIONS OF THE CARDINALS
IN PREPARATION FOR THE ELECTION OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
7. While the See is vacant, there are
two kinds of Congregations of the Cardinals: General Congregations,
which include the whole College and are held before the beginning of the
election, and Particular Congregations. All the Cardinals who are
not legitimately impeded must attend the General Congregations, once they
have been informed of the vacancy of the Apostolic See. Cardinals who,
by virtue of No. 33 of this Constitution, do not enjoy the right of electing
the Pope are granted the faculty of not attending these General Congregations,
should they prefer.
The Particular Congregation is made
up of the Cardinal Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church and three Cardinals,
one from each Order, chosen by lot from among the Cardinal electors already
present in Rome. The office of these Cardinals, called Assistants, ceases
at the conclusion of the third full day, and their place is taken by others,
also chosen by lot and having the same term of office, also after the election
During the time of the election, more
important matters are, if necessary, dealt with by the assembly of the
Cardinal electors, while ordinary affairs continue to be dealt with by
the Particular Congregation of Cardinals. In the General and Particular
Congregations, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Cardinals are
to wear the usual black cassock with piping and the red sash, with skull-cap,
pectoral cross and ring.
8. The Particular Congregations are
to deal only with questions of lesser importance which arise on a daily
basis or from time to time. But should there arise more serious questions
deserving fuller examination, these must be submitted to the General Congregation.
Moreover, anything decided, resolved or refused in one Particular Congregation
cannot be revoked, altered or granted in another; the right to do this
belongs solely to the General Congregation, and by a majority vote.
9. The General Congregations of Cardinals
are to be held in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican or, if circumstances
demand it, in another place judged more suitable by the Cardinals. At these
Congregations the Dean of the College presides or, should he be absent
or lawfully impeded, the Subdean. If one or both of these, in accordance
with No. 33 of this Constitution, no longer enjoy the right of electing
the Pope, the assembly of the Cardinal electors will be presided over by
the senior Cardinal elector, according to the customary order of precedence.
10. Votes in the Congregations of Cardinals,
when more important matters are concerned, are not to be expressed by word
of mouth but in a way which ensures secrecy.
11. The General Congregations preceding
the beginning of the election, which are therefore called "preparatory",
are to be held daily, beginning on the day which shall be fixed by the
Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church and the senior Cardinal of each of the
three Orders among the electors, and including the days on which the funeral
rites for the deceased Pope are celebrated. In this way the Cardinal Camerlengo
can hear the opinion of the College and communicate whatever is considered
necessary or appropriate, while the individual Cardinals can express their
views on possible problems, ask for explanations in case of doubt and make
12. In the first General Congregations
provision is to be made for each Cardinal to have available a copy of this
Constitution and at the same time to have an opportunity to raise questions
about the meaning and the implementation of its norms. The part of the
present Constitution regarding the vacancy of the Apostolic See should
also be read aloud. At the same time the Cardinals present are to swear
an oath to observe the prescriptions contained herein and to maintain secrecy.
This oath, which shall also be taken by Cardinals who arrive late and subsequently
take part in these Congregations, is to be read aloud by the Cardinal Dean
or by whoever else presides over the College by virtue of No. 9 of this
Constitution, in the presence of the other Cardinals and according to the
We, the Cardinals of Holy Roman
Church, of the Order of Bishops, of Priests and of Deacons, promise, pledge
and swear, as a body and individually, to observe exactly and faithfully
all the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici
Gregis of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, and to maintain rigorous
secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of
the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy
of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.
Next, each Cardinal shall add: And
I, N. Cardinal N., so promise, pledge and swear. And, placing his hand
on the Gospels, he will add: So help me God and these Holy Gospels which
I now touch with my hand.
13. In one of the Congregations immediately
following, the Cardinals, on the basis of a prearranged agenda, shall take
the more urgent decisions regarding the beginning of the election. In other
a) they shall fix the day, hour
and manner in which the body of the deceased Pope shall be brought to the
Vatican Basilica in order to be exposed for the homage of the faithful;
b) they shall make all necessary
arrangements for the funeral rites of the deceased Pope, to be celebrated
for nine consecutive days, determining when they are to begin, in such
a way that burial will take place, except for special reasons, between
the fourth and sixth day after death;
c) they shall see to it that
the Commission, made up of the Cardinal Camerlengo and the Cardinals who
had formerly held the offices of Secretary of State and President of the
Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, ensures that the rooms of
the Domus Sanctae Marthae are made ready for the suitable lodging
of the Cardinal electors, that rooms suitable for those persons men- tioned
in No. 46 of the present Constitution are also made ready, and that all
necessary arrangements are made to prepare the Sistine Chapel so that the
election process can be carried out in a smooth and orderly manner and
with maximum discretion, according to the provisions laid down in this
d) they shall entrust to two
ecclesiastics known for their sound doctrine, wisdom and moral authority
the task of presenting to the Cardinals two well-prepared meditations on
the problems facing the Church at the time and on the need for careful
discernment in choosing the new Pope; at the same time, without prejudice
to the provisions of No. 52 of this Constitution, they shall fix the day
and the time when the first of these meditations is to be given;
e) they shall approve — at the
proposal of the Administration of the Apostolic See or, within its competence,
of the Governatorato of Vatican City State — expenses incurred from the
death of the Pope until the election of his successor;
f) they shall read any documents
left by the deceased Pope for the College of Cardinals;
g) they shall arrange for the
destruction of the Fisherman's Ring and of the lead seal with which Apostolic
Letters are despatched;
h) they shall make provision
for the assignment of rooms by lot to the Cardinal electors;
i) they shall set the day and
hour of the beginning of the voting process.
CONCERNING CERTAIN OFFICES DURING
THE VACANCY OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE
14. According to the provisions of
Article 6 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus,13 at the death
of the Pope all the heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia — the Cardinal
Secretary of State and the Cardinal Prefects, the Archbishop Presidents,
together with the members of those Dicasteries — cease to exercise their
office. An exception is made for the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church and
the Major Penitentiary, who continue to exercise their ordinary functions,
submitting to the College of Cardinals matters that would have had to be
referred to the Supreme Pontiff.
Likewise, in conformity with the Apostolic
Constitution Vicariae Potestatis (No. 2 § 1),14 the Cardinal
Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome continues in office during the vacancy
of the Apostolic See, as does the Cardinal Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica
and Vicar General for Vatican City for his jurisdiction.
15. Should the offices of Camerlengo
of Holy Roman Church or of Major Penitentiary be vacant at the time of
the Pope's death, or should they become vacant before the election of his
successor, the College of Cardinals shall as soon as possible elect the
Cardinal, or Cardinals as the case may be, who shall hold these offices
until the election of the new Pope. In each of the two cases mentioned,
election takes place by a secret vote of all the Cardinal electors present,
with the use of ballots distributed and collected by the Masters of Ceremonies.
The ballots are then opened in the presence of the Camerlengo and of the
three Cardinal Assistants, if it is a matter of electing the Major Penitentiary;
if it is a matter of electing the Camerlengo, they are opened in the presence
of the said three Cardinals and of the Secretary of the College of Cardinals.
Whoever receives the greatest number of votes shall be elected and shall
facto enjoy all the relevant faculties. In the case of an equal number
of votes, the Cardinal belonging to the higher Order or, if both are in
the same Order, the one first created a Cardinal, shall be appointed. Until
the Camerlengo is elected, his functions are carried out by the Dean of
the College or, if he is absent or lawfully impeded, by the Subdean or
by the senior Cardinal according to the usual order of precedence, in conformity
with No. 9 of this Constitution, who can without delay take the decisions
that circumstances dictate.
16. If during the vacancy of the Apostolic
See the Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome should die, the Vicegerent
in office at the time shall also exercise the office proper to the Cardinal
Vicar in addition to the ordinary vicarious jurisdiction which he already
holds.15 Should there not be a Vicegerent, the Auxiliary Bishop who is
senior by appointment will carry out his functions.
17. As soon as he is informed of the
death of the Supreme Pontiff, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church must
officially ascertain the Pope's death, in the presence of the Master of
Papal Liturgical Celebrations, of the Cleric Prelates of the Apostolic
Camera and of the Secretary and Chancellor of the same; the latter shall
draw up the official death certificate. The Camerlengo must also place
seals on the Pope's study and bedroom, making provision that the personnel
who ordinarily reside in the private apartment can remain there until after
the burial of the Pope, at which time the entire papal apartment will be
sealed; he must notify the Cardinal Vicar for Rome of the Pope's death,
whereupon the latter shall inform the People of Rome by a special announcement;
he shall notify the Cardinal Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica; he shall
take possession of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and, either in person
or through a delegate, of the Pal- aces of the Lateran and of Castel Gandolfo,
and exercise custody and administration of the same; he shall determine,
after consulting the heads of the three Orders of Cardinals, all matters
concerning the Pope's burial, unless during his lifetime the latter had
made known his wishes in this regard; and he shall deal, in the name of
and with the consent of the College of Cardinals, with all matters that
circumstances suggest for safeguarding the rights of the Apostolic See
and for its proper administration. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and
administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help
of the three Cardinal Assistants, having sought the views of the College
of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion
when more serious matters arise.
18. The Cardinal Major Penitentiary
and his Officials, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, can carry out
the duties laid down by my Predecessor Pius XI in the Apostolic Constitution
Divinitus of 25 March 1935,16 and by myself in the Apostolic Constitution
19. The Dean of the College of Cardinals,
for his part, as soon as he has been informed of the Pope's death by the
Cardinal Camerlengo or the Prefect of the Papal Household, shall inform
all the Cardinals and convoke them for the Congregations of the College.
He shall also communicate news of the Pope's death to the Diplomatic Corps
accredited to the Holy See and to the Heads of the respective Nations.
20. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, the Secretary for Relations
with States and the Secretaries of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia remain
in charge of their respective offices, and are responsible to the College
21. In the same way, the office and
attendant powers of Papal Representatives do not lapse.
22. The Almoner of His Holiness will
also continue to carry out works of charity in accordance with the criteria
employed during the Pope's lifetime. He will be dependent upon the College
of Cardinals until the election of the new Pope.
23. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, all the civil power of the Supreme Pontiff concerning the government
of Vatican City State belongs to the College of Cardinals, which however
will be unable to issue decrees except in cases of urgent necessity and
solely for the time in which the Holy See is vacant. Such decrees will
be valid for the future only if the new Pope confirms them.
FACULTIES OF THE DICASTERIES OF
THE ROMAN CURIA DURING THE VACANCY OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE
24. During the period of vacancy, the
Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, with the exception of those mentioned in
No. 26 of this Constitution, have no faculty in matters which, Sede
plena, they can only deal with or carry out facto verbo cum Sanctissimo
Audientia Sanctissimi or vigore specialium et extraordinariarum
facultatum which the Roman Pontiff is accustomed to grant to the Prefects,
Presidents or Secretaries of those Dicasteries.
25. The ordinary faculties proper to
each Dicastery do not, however, cease at the death of the Pope. Nevertheless,
I decree that the Dicasteries are only to make use of these faculties for
the granting of favours of lesser importance, while more serious or controverted
matters, if they can be postponed, shall be exclusively reserved to the
future Pope. If such matters admit of no delay (as for example in the case
of dispensations which the Supreme Pontiff usually grants in articulo
mortis), they can be entrusted by the College of Cardinals to the Cardinal
who was Prefect until the Pope's death, or to the Archbishop who was then
President, and to the other Cardinals of the same Dicastery, to whose examination
the deceased Supreme Pontiff would probably have entrusted them. In such
circumstances, they will be able to decide per modum provisionis, until
the election of the Pope, what they judge to be most fitting and appropriate
for the preservation and defence of ecclesiastical rights and traditions.
26. The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic
Signatura and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, during the vacancy of the
Holy See, continue to deal with cases in accordance with their proper laws,
with due regard for the prescriptions of Article 18, paragraphs 1 and 3
of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.18
THE FUNERAL RITES OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF
27. After the death of the Roman Pontiff,
the Cardinals will celebrate the funeral rites for the repose of his soul
for nine consecutive days, in accordance with the Ordo Exsequiarum Romani
Pontificis, the norms of which, together with those of the Ordo
Rituum Conclavis, they are to observe faithfully.
28. If burial takes place in the Vatican
Basilica, the relevant official document is drawn up by the Notary of the
Chapter of the Basilica or by the Canon Archivist. Subsequently, a delegate
of the Cardinal Camerlengo and a delegate of the Prefect of the Papal Household
shall separately draw up documents certifying that burial has taken place.
The former shall do so in the presence of the members of the Apostolic
Camera and the latter in the presence of the Prefect of the Papal Household.
29. If the Roman Pontiff should die
outside Rome, it is the task of the College of Cardinals to make all necessary
arrangements for the dignified and reverent transfer of the body to the
Basilica of Saint Peter's in the Vatican.
30. No one is permitted to use any
means whatsoever in order to photograph or film the Supreme Pontiff either
on his sickbed or after death, or to record his words for subsequent reproduction.
If after the Pope's death anyone should wish to take photographs of him
for documentary purposes, he must ask permission from the Cardinal Camerlengo
of Holy Roman Church, who will not however permit the taking of photographs
of the Supreme Pontiff except attired in pontifical vestments.
31. After the burial of the Supreme
Pontiff and during the election of the new Pope, no part of the private
apartment of the Supreme Pontiff is to be lived in.
32. If the deceased Supreme Pontiff
has made a will concerning his belongings, bequeathing letters and private
documents, and has named an executor thereof, it is the responsibility
of the latter to determine and execute, in accordance with the mandate
received from the testator, matters concerning the private property and
writings of the deceased Pope. The executor will give an account of his
activities only to the new Supreme Pontiff.
THE ELECTION OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF
THE ELECTORS OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF
33. The right to elect the Roman Pontiff
belongs exclusively to the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, with the exception
of those who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day of the
Roman Pontiff's death or the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant.
The maximum number of Cardinal electors must not exceed one hundred and
twenty. The right of active election by any other ecclesiastical dignitary
or the intervention of any lay power of whatsoever grade or order is absolutely
34. If the Apostolic See should become
vacant during the celebration of an Ecumenical Council or of a Synod of
Bishops being held in Rome or in any other place in the world, the election
of the new Pope is to be carried out solely and exclusively by the Cardinal
electors indicated in No. 33, and not by the Council or the Synod of Bishops.
For this reason I declare null and void acts which would in any way temerariously
presume to modify the regulations concerning the election or the college
of electors. Moreover, in confirmation of the provisions of Canons 340
and 347 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law and of Canon 53 of the Code of
Canons of the Eastern Churches in this regard, a Council or Synod of Bishops,
at whatever point they have reached, must be considered immediately suspended
iure, once notification is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic
See. Therefore without any delay all meetings, congregations or sessions
must be interrupted, and the preparation of any decrees or canons, together
with the promulgation of those already confirmed, must be suspended, under
pain of nullity of the same. Neither the Council nor the Synod can continue
for any reason, even though it be most serious or worthy of special mention,
until the new Pope, canonically elected, orders their resumption or continuation.
35. No Cardinal elector can be excluded
from active or passive voice in the election of the Supreme Pontiff, for
any reason or pretext, with due regard for the provisions of No. 40 of
36. A Cardinal of Holy Roman Church
who has been created and published before the College of Cardinals thereby
has the right to elect the Pope, in accordance with the norm of No. 33
of the present Constitution, even if he has not yet received the red hat
or the ring, or sworn the oath. On the other hand, Cardinals who have been
canonically deposed or who with the consent of the Roman Pontiff have renounced
the cardinal- ate do not have this right. Moreover, during the period of
vacancy the College of Cardinals cannot readmit or rehabilitate them.
37. I furthermore decree that, from
the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors
who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent; the
College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to defer, for serious
reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a
maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of
the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the
38. All the Cardinal electors, convoked
for the election of the new Pope by the Cardinal Dean, or by another Cardinal
in his name, are required, in virtue of holy obedience, to obey the announcement
of convocation and to proceed to the place designated for this purpose,
unless they are hindered by sickness or by some other grave impediment,
which however must be recognized as such by the College of Cardinals.
39. However, should any Cardinal electors
arrive re integra, that is, before the new Pastor of the Church
has been elected, they shall be allowed to take part in the election at
the stage which it has reached.
40. If a Cardinal with the right to
vote should refuse to enter Vatican City in order to take part in the election,
or subsequently, once the election has begun, should refuse to remain in
order to discharge his office, without manifest reason of illness attested
to under oath by doctors and confirmed by the majority of the electors,
the other Cardinals shall proceed freely with the election, without waiting
for him or readmitting him. If on the other hand a Cardinal elector is
constrained to leave Vatican City because of illness, the election can
proceed without asking for his vote; if however he desires to return to
the place of the election, once his health is restored or even before,
he must be readmitted.
Furthermore, if a Cardinal elector
leaves Vatican City for some grave reason, acknowledged as such by the
majority of the electors, he can return, in order once again to take part
in the election.
THE PLACE OF THE ELECTION AND THOSE
ADMITTED TO IT BY REASON OF THEIR OFFICE
41. The Conclave for the election of
the Supreme Pontiff shall take place within the territory of Vatican City,
in determined areas and buildings, closed to unauthorized persons in such
a way as to ensure suitable accommodation for the Cardinal electors and
all those legitimately called to cooperate in the orderly functioning of
42. By the time fixed for the beginning
of the election of the Supreme Pontiff, all the Cardinal electors must
have been assigned and must have taken up suitable lodging in the Domus
Sanctae Marthae, recently built in Vatican City.
If reasons of health, previously confirmed
by the appropriate Congregation of Cardinals, require that a Cardinal elector
should have a nurse in attendance, even during the period of the election,
arrangements must be made to provide suitable accommodation for the latter.
43. From the beginning of the electoral
process until the public announcement that the election of the Supreme
Pontiff has taken place, or in any case until the new Pope so disposes,
the rooms of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and in particular the Sistine
Chapel and the areas reserved for liturgical celebrations are to be closed
to unauthorized persons, by the authority of the Cardinal Camerlengo and
with the outside assistance of the Substitute of the Secretariat of State,
in accordance with the provisions set forth in the following Numbers.
During this period, the entire territory
of Vatican City and the ordinary activity of the offices located therein
shall be regulated in a way which permits the election of the Supreme Pontiff
to be carried out with due privacy and freedom. In particular, provision
shall be made to ensure that no one approaches the Cardinal electors while
they are being transported from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the
Apostolic Vatican Palace.
44. The Cardinal electors, from the
beginning of the election until its conclusion and the public announcement
of its outcome, are not to communicate — whether by writing, by telephone
or by any other means of communication — with persons outside the area
where the election is taking place, except in cases of proven and urgent
necessity, duly acknowledged by the Particular Congregation mentioned in
No. 7. It is also the competence of the Particular Congregation to recognize
the necessity and urgency of any communication with their respective offices
on the part of the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, the Cardinal Vicar General
for the Diocese of Rome and the Cardinal Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica.
45. Anyone not indicated in No. 46
below and who, while legitimately present in Vatican City in accordance
with No. 43 of this Constitution, should happen to meet one of the Cardinal
electors during the time of the election, is absolutely forbidden to engage
in conversation of any sort, by whatever means and for whatever reason,
with that Cardinal.
46. In order to meet the personal and
official needs connected with the election process, the following individuals
must be available and therefore properly lodged in suitable areas within
the confines mentioned in No. 43 of this Constitution: the Secretary of
the College of Cardinals, who acts as Secretary of the electoral assembly;
the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations with two Masters of Ceremonies
and two Religious attached to the Papal Sacristy; and an ecclesiastic chosen
by the Cardinal Dean or by the Cardinal taking his place, in order to assist
him in his duties.
There must also be available a number
of priests from the regular clergy for hearing confessions in the different
languages, and two medical doctors for possible emergencies.
Appropriate provisions must also be
made beforehand for a suitable number of persons to be available for preparing
and serving meals and for housekeeping.
All the persons indicated here must
receive prior approval from the Cardinal Camerlengo and the three Cardinal
47. All the persons listed in No. 46
of this Constitution who in any way or at any time should come to learn
anything from any source, directly or indirectly, regarding the election
process, and in particular regarding the voting which took place in the
election itself, are obliged to maintain strict secrecy with all persons
extraneous to the College of Cardinal electors: accordingly, before the
election begins, they shall take an oath in the form and using the formula
indicated in No. 48.
48. At a suitable time before the beginning
of the election, the persons indicated in No. 46 of this Constitution,
having been duly warned about the meaning and extent of the oath which
they are to take, shall, in the presence of the Cardinal Camerlengo or
another Cardinal delegated by him, and of two Masters of Ceremonies, swear
and sign the oath according to the following formula:
I, N.N., promise and swear that,
unless I should receive a special faculty given expressly by the newly-
elected Pontiff or by his successors, I will observe absolute and perpetual
secrecy with all who are not part of the College of Cardinal electors concerning
all matters directly or indirectly related to the ballots cast and their
scrutiny for the election of the Supreme Pontiff.
I likewise promise and swear to
refrain from using any audio or video equipment capable of recording anything
which takes place during the period of the election within Vatican City,
and in particular anything which in any way, directly or indirectly, is
related to the process of the election itself. I declare that I take this
oath fully aware that an infraction thereof will make me subject to the
spiritual and canonical penalties which the future Supreme Pontiff will
see fit to adopt, in accordance with Canon 1399 of the Code of Canon Law.
So help me God and these Holy Gospels
which I touch with my hand.
THE BEGINNING OF THE ELECTION
49. When the funeral rites for the
deceased Pope have been celebrated according to the prescribed ritual,
and everything necessary for the regular functioning of the election has
been prepared, on the appointed day — and thus on the fifteenth day after
the death of the Pope or, in conformity with the provisions of No. 37 of
the present Constitution, not later than the twentieth — the Cardinal electors
shall meet in the Basilica of Saint Peter's in the Vatican, or elsewhere,
should circumstances warrant it, in order to take part in a solemn Eucharistic
celebration with the Votive Mass Pro Eligendo Papa.19 This celebration
should preferably take place at a suitable hour in the morning, so that
in the afternoon the prescriptions of the following Numbers of this Constitution
can be carried out.
50. From the Pauline Chapel of the
Apostolic Palace, where they will assemble at a suitable hour in the afternoon,
the Cardinal electors, in choir dress, and invoking the assistance of the
Holy Spirit with the chant of the Veni Creator, will solemnly process
to the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, where the election will
51. Retaining the essential elements
of the Conclave, but modifying some less important elements which, because
of changed circumstances, no longer serve their original purpose, I establish
and decree by the present Constitution that the election of the Supreme
Pontiff, in conformity with the prescriptions contained in the following
Numbers, is to take place exclusively in the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic
Palace in the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel is therefore to remain an absolutely
enclosed area until the conclusion of the election, so that total secrecy
may be ensured with regard to everything said or done there in any way
pertaining, directly or indirectly, to the election of the Supreme Pontiff.
It will therefore be the responsibility
of the College of Cardinals, operating under the authority and responsibility
of the Camerlengo, assisted by the Particular Congregation mentioned in
No. 7 of the present Constitution, and with the outside assistance of the
Substitute of the Secretariat of State, to make all prior arrangements
for the interior of the Sistine Chapel and adjacent areas to be prepared,
so that the orderly election and its privacy will be ensured.
In a special way, careful and stringent
checks must be made, with the help of trustworthy individuals of proven
technical ability, in order to ensure that no audiovisual equipment has
been secretly installed in these areas for recording and transmission to
52. When the Cardinal electors have
arrived in the Sistine Chapel, in accordance with the provisions of No.
50, and still in the presence of those who took part in the solemn procession,
they shall take the oath, reading aloud the formula indicated in No. 53.
The Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal
who has precedence by order and seniority in accordance with the provisions
of No. 9 of the present Constitution, will read the formula aloud; then
each of the Cardinal electors, touching the Holy Gospels, will read and
recite the formula, as indicated in the following Number.
When the last of the Cardinal electors
has taken the oath, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations will give
the order Extra omnes, and all those not taking part in the Conclave
must leave the Sistine Chapel.
The only ones to remain in the Chapel
are the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations and the ecclesiastic previously
chosen to preach to the Cardinal electors the second meditation, mentioned
in No. 13 d), concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the
need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church,
Deum prae oculis habentes.
53. In conformity with the provisions
of No. 52, the Cardinal Dean or the Cardinal who has precedence by order
and seniority, will read aloud the following formula of the oath:
We, the Cardinal electors present
in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals
and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions
contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul
II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We
likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition
is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out
the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not
fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights
and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear
to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or
lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election
of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election,
directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise
and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the
election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by
the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference,
opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities
of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might
wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.
Each of the Cardinal electors, according
to the order of precedence, will then take the oath according to the following
And I, N. Cardinal N., do so promise,
pledge and swear. Placing his hand on the Gospels, he will add: So
help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.
54. When the ecclesiastic who gives
the meditation has concluded, he leaves the Sistine Chapel together with
the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. The Cardinal electors, after
reciting the prayers found in the relative Ordo, listen to the Cardinal
Dean (or the one taking his place), who begins by asking the College of
electors whether the election can begin, or whether there still remain
doubts which need to be clarified concerning the norms and procedures laid
down in this Constitution. It is not however permitted, even if the electors
are unanimously agreed, to modify or replace any of the norms and procedures
which are a substantial part of the election process, under penalty of
the nullity of the same deliberation.
If, in the judgment of the majority
of the electors, there is nothing to prevent the election process from
beginning, it shall start immediately, in accordance with the procedures
indicated in this Constitution.
OBSERVANCE OF SECRECY ON ALL MATTERS
CONCERNING THE ELECTION
55. The Cardinal Camerlengo and the
three Cardinal Assistants pro tempore are obliged to be especially
vigilant in ensuring that there is abso- lutely no violation of secrecy
with regard to the events occurring in the Sistine Chapel, where the voting
takes place, and in the adjacent areas, before, as well as during and after
In particular, relying upon the expertise
of two trustworthy technicians, they shall make every effort to preserve
that secrecy by ensuring that no audiovisual equipment for recording or
transmitting has been installed by anyone in the areas mentioned, and particularly
in the Sistine Chapel itself, where the acts of the election are carried
Should any infraction whatsoever of
this norm occur and be discovered, those responsible should know that they
will be subject to grave penalties according to the judgment of the future
56. For the whole duration of the election,
the Cardinal electors are required to refrain from written correspondence
and from all conversations, including those by telephone or radio, with
persons who have not been duly admitted to the buildings set aside for
Such conversations shall be permitted
only for the most grave and urgent reasons, confirmed by the Particular
Congregation of Cardinals mentioned in No. 7.
It shall therefore be the duty of the
Cardinal electors to make necessary arrangements, before the beginning
of the election, for the handling of all non-deferrable official or personal
business, so that there will be no need for conversations of this sort
to take place.
57. The Cardinal electors are likewise
to refrain from receiving or sending messages of any kind outside Vatican
City; naturally it is prohibited for any person legitimately present in
Vatican City to deliver such messages. It is specifically prohibited to
the Cardinal electors, for the entire duration of the election, to receive
newspapers or periodicals of any sort, to listen to the radio or to watch
58. Those who, in accordance with the
prescriptions of No. 46 of the present Constitution, carry out any functions
associated with the election, and who directly or indirectly could in any
way violate secrecy — whether by words or writing, by signs or in any other
way — are absolutely obliged to avoid this, lest they incur the penalty
of excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.
59. In particular, the Cardinal electors
are forbidden to reveal to any other person, directly or indirectly, information
about the voting and about matters discussed or decided concerning the
election of the Pope in the meetings of Cardinals, both before and during
the time of the election. This obligation of secrecy also applies to the
Cardinals who are not electors but who take part in the General Congregations
in accordance with No. 7 of the present Constitution.
60. I further order the Cardinal electors,
onerata ipsorum conscientia, to maintain secrecy concerning these matters
also after the election of the new Pope has taken place, and I remind them
that it is not licit to break the secret in any way unless a special and
explicit permission has been granted by the Pope himself.
61. Finally, in order that the Cardinal
electors may be protected from the indiscretion of others and from possible
threats to their independence of judgment and freedom of decision, I absolutely
forbid the introduction into the place of the election, under whatsoever
pretext, or the use, should they have been introduced, of technical instruments
of any kind for the recording, reproducing or transmitting of sound, visual
images or writing.
THE ELECTION PROCEDURE
62. Since the forms of election known
as per acclamationem seu inspirationem and per compromissum are
abolished, the form of electing the Roman Pontiff shall henceforth be per
I therefore decree that for the valid
election of the Roman Pontiff two thirds of the votes are required, calculated
on the basis of the total number of electors present.
Should it be impossible to divide the
number of Cardinals present into three equal parts, for the validity of
the election of the Supreme Pontiff one additional vote is required.
63. The election is to begin immediately
after the provisions of No. 54 of the present Constitution have been duly
Should the election begin on the afternoon
of the first day, only one ballot is to be held; then, on the following
days, if no one was elected on the first ballot, two ballots shall be held
in the morning and two in the afternoon. The voting is to begin at a time
which shall have been determined earlier, either in the preparatory Congregations
or during the election period, but in accordance with the procedures laid
down in Nos. 64ff of the present Constitution.
64. The voting process is carried out
in three phases. The first phase, which can be called the pre-scrutiny,
1) the preparation and distribution of the ballot papers by the Masters
of Ceremonies, who give at least two or three to each Cardinal elector;
2) the drawing by lot, from among all the Cardinal electors, of three Scrutineers,
of three persons charged with collecting the votes of the sick, called
for the sake of brevity Infirmarii, and of three Revisers; this
drawing is carried out in public by the junior Cardinal Deacon, who draws
out nine names, one after another, of those who shall carry out these tasks;
3) if, in the drawing of lots for the Scrutineers,
Revisers, there should come out the names of Cardinal electors who because
of infirmity or other reasons are unable to carry out these tasks, the
names of others who are not impeded are to be drawn in their place. The
first three drawn will act as Scrutineers, the second three as Infirmarii
the last three as Revisers.
65. For this phase of the voting process
the following norms must be observed: 1) the ballot paper must be rectangular
in shape and must bear in the upper half, in print if possible, the words
in Summum Pontificem; on the lower half there must be a space left
for writing the name of the person chosen; thus the ballot is made in such
a way that it can be folded in two; 2) the completion of the ballot must
be done in secret by each Cardinal elector, who will write down legibly,
as far as possible in handwriting that cannot be identified as his, the
name of the person he chooses, taking care not to write other names as
well, since this would make the ballot null; he will then fold the ballot
twice; 3) during the voting, the Cardinal electors are to remain alone
in the Sistine Chapel; therefore, immediately after the distribution of
the ballots and before the electors begin to write, the Secretary of the
College of Cardinals, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations and the
Masters of Ceremonies must leave the Chapel. After they have left, the
junior Cardinal Deacon shall close the door, opening and closing it again
each time this is necessary, as for example when the Infirmarii go
to collect the votes of the sick and when they return to the Chapel.
66. The second phase, the scrutiny
comprises: 1) the placing of the ballots in the appropriate receptacle;
2) the mixing and counting of the ballots; 3) the opening of the votes.
Each Cardinal elector, in order of precedence, having completed and folded
his ballot, holds it up so that it can be seen and carries it to the altar,
at which the Scrutineers stand and upon which there is placed a receptacle,
covered by a plate, for receiving the ballots. Having reached the altar,
the Cardinal elector says aloud the words of the following oath:
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. He then places
the ballot on the plate, with which he drops it into the receptacle. Having
done this, he bows to the altar and returns to his place.
If any of the Cardinal electors present
in the Chapel is unable to go to the altar because of infirmity, the last
of the Scrutineers goes to him. The infirm elector, having pronounced the
above oath, hands the folded ballot to the Scrutineer, who carries it in
full view to the altar and omitting the oath, places it on the plate, with
which he drops it into the receptacle.
67. If there are Cardinal electors
who are sick and confined to their rooms, referred to in Nos. 41ff of this
Constitution, the three Infirmarii go to them with a box which has
an opening in the top through which a folded ballot can be inserted. Before
giving the box to the Infirmarii, the Scrutineers open it publicly,
so that the other electors can see that it is empty; they are then to lock
it and place the key on the altar. The Infirmarii, taking the locked
box and a sufficient number of ballot papers on a small tray, then go,
duly accompanied, to the Domus Sanctae Marthae to each sick elector,
who takes a ballot, writes his vote in secret, folds the ballot and, after
taking the above- mentioned oath, puts it through the opening in the box.
If any of the electors who are sick is unable to write, one of the three
another Cardinal elector chosen by the sick man, having taken an oath before
the Infirmarii concerning the observance of secrecy, carries out
the above procedure. The Infirmarii then take the box back into
the Chapel, where it shall be opened by the Scrutineers after the Cardinals
present have cast their votes. The Scrutineers then count the ballots in
the box and, having ascertained that their number corresponds to the number
of those who are sick, place them one by one on the plate and then drop
them all together into the receptacle. In order not to prolong the voting
process unduly, the Infirmarii may complete their own ballots and
place them in the receptable immediately after the senior Cardinal, and
then go to collect the votes of the sick in the manner indicated above
while the other electors are casting their votes.
68. After all the ballots of the Cardinal
electors have been placed in the receptacle, the first Scrutineer shakes
it several times in order to mix them, and immediately afterwards the last
Scrutineer proceeds to count them, picking them out of the urn in full
view and placing them in another empty receptacle previously prepared for
this purpose. If the number of ballots does not correspond to the number
of electors, the ballots must all be burned and a second vote taken at
once; if however their number does correspond to the number of electors,
the opening of the ballots then takes place in the following manner.
69. The Scrutineers sit at a table
placed in front of the altar. The first of them takes a ballot, unfolds
it, notes the name of the person chosen and passes the ballot to the second
Scrutineer, who in his turn notes the name of the person chosen and passes
the ballot to the third, who reads it out in a loud and clear voice, so
that all the electors present can record the vote on a sheet of paper prepared
for that purpose. He himself writes down the name read from the ballot.
If during the opening of the ballots the Scrutineers should discover two
ballots folded in such a way that they appear to have been completed by
one elector, if these ballots bear the same name they are counted as one
vote; if however they bear two different names, neither vote will be valid;
however, in neither of the two cases is the voting session annulled.
When all the ballots have been opened,
the Scrutineers add up the sum of the votes obtained by the different names
and write them down on a separate sheet of paper. The last Scrutineer,
as he reads out the individual ballots, pierces each one with a needle
through the word Eligo and places it on a thread, so that the ballots
can be more securely preserved. After the names have been read out, the
ends of the thread are tied in a knot, and the ballots thus joined together
are placed in a receptacle or on one side of the table.
70. There then follows the third and
last phase, also known as the post-scrutiny, which comprises: 1)
the counting of the votes; 2) the checking of the same; 3) the burning
of the ballots.
The Scrutineers add up all the votes
that each individual has received, and if no one has obtained two thirds
of the votes on that ballot, the Pope has not been elected; if however
it turns out that someone has obtained two thirds of the votes, the canonically
valid election of the Roman Pontiff has taken place.
In either case, that is, whether the
election has occurred or not, the Revisers must proceed to check both the
ballots and the notes made by the Scrutineers, in order to make sure that
these latter have performed their task exactly and faithfully.
Immediately after the checking has
taken place, and before the Cardinal electors leave the Sistine Chapel,
all the ballots are to be burnt by the Scrutineers, with the assistance
of the Secretary of the Conclave and the Masters of Ceremonies who in the
meantime have been summoned by the junior Cardinal Deacon. If however a
second vote is to take place immediately, the ballots from the first vote
will be burned only at the end, together with those from the second vote.
71. In order that secrecy may be better
observed, I order each and every Cardinal elector to hand over to the Cardinal
Camerlengo or to one of the three Cardinal Assistants any notes which he
may have in his possession concerning the results of each ballot. These
notes are to be burnt together with the ballots.
I further lay down that at the end
of the election the Cardinal Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church shall draw
up a document, to be approved also by the three Cardinal Assistants, declaring
the result of the voting at each session. This document is to be given
to the Pope and will thereafter be kept in a designated archive, enclosed
in a sealed envelope, which may be opened by no one unless the Supreme
Pontiff gives explicit permission.
72. Confirming the dispositions of
my Predecessors, Saint Pius X,20 Pius XII 21 and Paul VI,22 I decree that
— except for the afternoon of the entrance into the Conclave — both in
the morning and in the afternoon, after a ballot which does not result
in an election, the Cardinal electors shall proceed immediately to a second
one, in which they are to express their vote anew. In this second ballot
all the formalities of the previous one are to be observed, with the difference
that the electors are not bound to take a new oath or to choose new Scrutineers,
Revisers. Everything done in this regard for the first ballot will be valid
for the second one, without the need for any repetition.
73. Everything that has been laid down
above concerning the voting procedures must be diligently observed by the
Cardinal electors in all the ballots, which are to take place each day,
in the morning and in the afternoon, after the celebration of the sacred
rites or prayers laid down in the Ordo Rituum Conclavis.
74. In the event that the Cardinal
electors find it difficult to agree on the person to be elected, after
balloting has been carried out for three days in the form described above
(in Nos. 62ff) without result, voting is to be suspended for a maximum
of one day in order to allow a pause for prayer, informal discussion among
the voters, and a brief spiritual exhortation given by the senior Cardinal
in the Order of Deacons. Voting is then resumed in the usual manner, and
after seven ballots, if the election has not taken place, there is another
pause for prayer, discussion and an exhortation given by the senior Cardinal
in the Order of Priests. Another series of seven ballots is then held and,
if there has still been no election, this is followed by a further pause
for prayer, discussion and an exhortation given by the senior Cardinal
in the Order of Bishops. Voting is then resumed in the usual manner and,
unless the election occurs, it is to continue for seven ballots.
75. If the balloting does not result
in an election, even after the provisions of No. 74 have been fulfilled,
the Cardinal electors shall be invited by the Camerlengo to express an
opinion about the manner of proceeding. The election will then proceed
in accordance with what the absolute majority of the electors decides.
Nevertheless, there can be no waiving
of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by an absolute
majority of the votes or else by voting only on the two names which in
the ballot immediately preceding have received the greatest number of votes;
also in this second case only an absolute majority is required.
76. Should the election take place
in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should
the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this
very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter;
consequently, it confers no right on the one elected.
77. I decree that the dispositions
concerning everything that precedes the election of the Roman Pontiff and
the carrying out of the election itself must be observed in full, even
if the vacancy of the Apostolic See should occur as a result of the resignation
of the Supreme Pontiff, in accordance with the provisions of Canon 333
§ 2 of the Code of Canon Law and Canon 44 § 2 of the Code of
Canons of the Eastern Churches.
MATTERS TO BE OBSERVED OR AVOIDED
IN THE ELECTION OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF
78. If — God forbid — in the election
of the Roman Pontiff the crime of simony were to be perpetrated, I decree
and declare that all those guilty thereof shall incur excommunication latae
sententiae. At the same time I remove the nullity or invalidity of
the same simoniacal provision, in order that — as was already established
by my Predecessors — the validity of the election of the Roman Pontiff
may not for this reason be challenged.23
79. Confirming the prescriptions of
my Predecessors, I likewise forbid anyone, even if he is a Cardinal, during
the Pope's lifetime and without having consulted him, to make plans concerning
the election of his successor, or to promise votes, or to make decisions
in this regard in private gatherings.
80. In the same way, I wish to confirm
the provisions made by my Predecessors for the purpose of excluding any
external interference in the election of the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore,
in virtue of holy obedience and under pain of excommunication latae
sententiae, I again forbid each and every Cardinal elector, present
and future, as also the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and all other
persons taking part in the preparation and carrying out of everything necessary
for the election, to accept under any pretext whatsoever, from any civil
authority whatsoever, the task of proposing the veto or the so-called
under the guise of a simple desire, or to reveal such either to the entire
electoral body assembled together or to individual electors, in writing
or by word of mouth, either directly and personally or indirectly and through
others, both before the election begins and for its duration. I intend
this prohibition to include all possible forms of interference, opposition
and suggestion whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree,
or any individual or group, might attempt to exercise influence on the
election of the Pope.
81. The Cardinal electors shall further
abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of
any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person
or persons. If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such
a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe
it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae
those who violate this prohibition. It is not my intention however to forbid,
during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning
82. I likewise forbid the Cardinals
before the election to enter into any stipulations, committing themselves
of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated
to the Pontificate. These promises too, should any in fact be made, even
under oath, I also declare null and void.
83. With the same insistence shown
by my Predecessors, I earnestly exhort the Cardinal electors not to allow
themselves to be guided, in choosing the Pope, by friendship or aversion,
or to be influenced by favour or personal relationships towards anyone,
or to be constrained by the interference of persons in authority or by
pressure groups, by the suggestions of the mass media, or by force, fear
or the pursuit of popularity. Rather, having before their eyes solely the
glory of God and the good of the Church, and having prayed for divine assistance,
they shall give their vote to the person, even outside the College of Cardinals,
who in their judgment is most suited to govern the universal Church in
a fruitful and beneficial way.
84. During the vacancy of the Apostolic
See, and above all during the time of the election of the Successor of
Peter, the Church is united in a very special way with her Pastors and
particularly with the Cardinal electors of the Supreme Pontiff, and she
asks God to grant her a new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence.
Indeed, following the example of the first Christian community spoken of
in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 1:14), the universal Church, spiritually
united with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, should persevere with one heart
in prayer; thus the election of the new Pope will not be something unconnected
with the People of God and concerning the College of electors alone, but
will be in a certain sense an act of the whole Church. I therefore lay
down that in all cities and other places, at least the more important ones,
as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in
particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of
his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered
to the Lord (cf. Mt 21:22; Mk 11:24), that he may enlighten
the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious
and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the
good of the whole People of God demand.
85. In a most earnest and heartfelt
way I recommend this prayer to the venerable Cardinals who, by reason of
age, no longer enjoy the right to take part in the election of the Supreme
Pontiff. By virtue of the singular bond with the Apostolic See which the
Cardinalate represents, let them lead the prayer of the People of God,
whether gathered in the Patriarchal Basilicas of the city of Rome or in
places of worship in other particular Churches, fervently imploring the
assistance of Almighty God and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit for
the Cardinal electors, especially at the time of the election itself. They
will thereby participate in an effective and real way in the difficult
task of providing a Pastor for the universal Church.
86. I also ask the one who is elected
not to refuse, for fear of its weight, the office to which he has been
called, but to submit humbly to the design of the divine will. God who
imposes the burden will sustain him with his hand, so that he will be able
to bear it. In conferring the heavy task upon him, God will also help him
to accomplish it and, in giving him the dignity, he will grant him the
strength not to be overwhelmed by the weight of his office.
THE ACCEPTANCE AND PROCLAMATION
OF THE NEW POPE AND THE BEGINNING OF HIS MINISTRY
87. When the election has canonically
taken place, the junior Cardinal Deacon summons into the hall of election
the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and the Master of Papal Liturgical
Celebrations. The Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal who is first in order
and seniority, in the name of the whole College of electors, then asks
the consent of the one elected in the following words: Do you accept
your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff? And, as soon as he has
received the consent, he asks him: By what name do you wish to be called?
the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, acting as notary and having
as witnesses two Masters of Ceremonies, who are to be summoned at that
moment, draws up a document certifying acceptance by the new Pope and the
name taken by him.
88. After his acceptance, the person
elected, if he has already received episcopal ordination, is immediately
Bishop of the Church of Rome, true Pope and Head of the College of Bishops.
He thus acquires and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal
If the person elected is not already
a Bishop, he shall immediately be ordained Bishop.
89. When the other formalities provided
for in the Ordo Rituum Conclavis have been carried out, the Cardinal
electors approach the newly-elected Pope in the prescribed manner, in order
to make an act of homage and obedience. An act of thanksgiving to God is
then made, after which the senior Cardinal Deacon announces to the waiting
people that the election has taken place and proclaims the name of the
new Pope, who immedi- ately thereafter imparts the Apostolic Blessing Urbi
et Orbi from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.
If the person elected is not already
a Bishop, homage is paid to him and the announcement of his election is
made only after he has been solemnly ordained Bishop.
90. If the person elected resides outside
Vatican City, the norms contained in the Ordo Rituum Conclavis are
to be observed.
If the newly-elected Supreme Pontiff
is not already a Bishop, his episcopal ordination, referred to in Nos.
88 and 89 of the present Constitution, shall be carried out according to
the usage of the Church by the Dean of the College of Cardinals or, in
his absence, by the Subdean or, should he too be prevented from doing so,
by the senior Cardinal Bishop.
91. The Conclave ends immediately after
the new Supreme Pontiff assents to his election, unless he should determine
otherwise. From that moment the new Pope can be approached by the Substitute
of the Secretariat of State, the Secretary for Relations with States, the
Prefect of the Papal Household and by anyone else needing to discuss with
him matters of importance at the time.
92. After the solemn ceremony of the
inauguration of the Pontificate and within an appropriate time, the Pope
will take possession of the Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Lateran, according
to the prescribed ritual.
Wherefore, after mature reflection
and following the example of my Predecessors, I lay down and prescribe
these norms and I order that no one shall presume to contest the present
Constitution and anything contained herein for any reason whatsoever. This
Constitution is to be completely observed by all, notwithstanding any disposition
to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention. It is to be fully and
integrally implemented and is to serve as a guide for all to whom it refers.
As determined above, I hereby declare
abrogated all Constitutions and Orders issued in this regard by the Roman
Pontiffs, and at the same time I declare completely null and void anything
done by any person, whatever his authority, knowingly or unknowingly, in
any way contrary to this Constitution.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's,
on 22 February, the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle, in the
year 1996, the eighteenth of my Pontificate.
1 Saint Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses,
III, 3, 2: SCh 211, 33.
2 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Vacante
Sede Apostolica (25 December 1904): Pii X Pontificis Maximi Acta,
3 Cf. Motu Proprio Cum Proxime (1
March 1922): AAS 14 (1922), 145-146; Apostolic Constitution Quae
Divinitus (25 March 1935): AAS 27 (1935), 97-113.
4 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Vacantis
Apostolicae Sedis (8 December 1945): AAS 38 (1946), 65-99.
5 Cf. Motu proprio Summi Pontificis
Electio (5 September 1962): AAS 54 (1962), 632-640.
6 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Regimini
Ecclesiae Universae (15 August 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 885-928;
Motu Proprio Ingravescentem Aetatem (21 November 1970): AAS 62
(1970), 810-813; Apostolic Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo (1
October 1975): AAS 67 (1975), 609-645.
7 Cf. AAS 80 (1988), 841-912.
8 Cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ Pastor Aeternus, III;
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
9 Canon 332 § 1 C.I.C.; Canon
44 § 1 C.C.E.O.
10 Cf. Motu Proprio Ingravescentem
Aetatem (21 November 1970), II, 2: AAS 62 (1970), 811; Apostolic
Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo (1 October 1975), 33: AAS
67 (1975), 622.
11 Code of Canon Law, Canon
12 Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon
332 § 2, Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 47 §
13 Cf. AAS 80 (1988), 860.
14 Cf. AAS 69 (1977), 9-10.
15 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Vicariae
Potestatis (6 January 1977), 2 § 4: AAS 69 (1977), 10.
16 Cf. No. 12: AAS 27 (1935),
17 Cf. Art. 117: AAS 80 (1988),
18 Cf. AAS 80 (1988), 864.
19 Missale Romanum, No. 4, p.
20 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Vacante
Sede Apostolica (25 December 1904), 76: Pii X Pontificis Maximi
Acta, III (1908), 280-281.
21 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Vacantis
Apostolicae Sedis (8 December 1945), 88: AAS 38 (1946), 93.
22 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Romano
Pontifici Eligendo (1 October 1975), 74: AAS 67 (1975), 639.
23 Cf. Saint Pius X, Apostolic Constitution
Sede Apostolica (25 December 1904), 79: Pii X Pontificis Maximi
Acta, III (1908), 282; Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Vacantis
Apostolicae Sedis (8 December 1945), 92: AAS 38 (1946), 94;
Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo (1 October
1975), 79: AAS 67 (1975), 641.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction . . . . . . . .
. . . 3
The vacancy of the Apostolic See
Chapter I – The powers of the College
of Cardi- nals during the vacancy of the Apostolic See 13
Chapter II – The Congregations of the
Cardinals in preparation for the election of the Su- preme Pontiff . .
. . . . . . . 15
Chapter III – Concerning certain offices
during the vacancy of the Apostolic See . . . . 20
Chapter IV – Faculties of the Dicasteries
of the Roman Curia during the vacancy of the Apostolic See . . . . . .
. . . . 25
Chapter V – The funeral rites of the
Roman Pontiff . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
The election of the Roman Pontiff
Chapter I – The electors of the Roman
Chapter II – The place of the election
and those admitted to it by reason of their office . . 34
Chapter III – The beginning of the
election . . 38
Chapter IV – Observance of secrecy
on all matters concerning the election . . . . 43
Chapter V – The election procedure
. . . . 46
Chapter VI – Matters to be observed
or avoided in the election of the Roman Pontiff . . . 55
Chapter VII – The acceptance and proclamation
of the new Pope and the beginning of his ministry . . . . . . . . . . .
Promulgation . . . . . . . .
. . . 63