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The following excerpts are drawn from The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History (Orbis Books, 2019), by Gerard O’Connell, America’s Vatican correspondent. We join O’Connell’s tale on March 13, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28, 2013, and the calling of a conclave to elect his successor. Those 115 cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave have gathered in Rome and have been sequestered under heavy security in the Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican, where they will conduct secret votes at regular intervals until a new pope is elected with two thirds of the votes.
What took place next inside the Sistine Chapel was hidden from the outside world. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re first explained the voting process and then asked the cardinals if they were ready to vote. They were! Everyone was anxious to do so, as this would reveal where the Holy Spirit was leading them. The first phase of the process began with the distribution of ballot sheets to the electors. Before the voting started, and in accordance with the apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” the most junior cardinal elector then extracted at random the names of three “scrutineers,” three “infirmarii” and three “revisers” to supervise the first voting session.
Phase - Ballot - Cardinal - Ballot - Form
The second phase was the secret ballot. Each cardinal had before him a ballot form, rectangular in shape, on which were printed in Latin the words “Eligo in Summum Pontificem” (“I elect as Supreme Pontiff”), and underneath there was a space for the name of the person to whom he wished to give his vote. The electors were expected to write in such a way that they could not be easily recognized by their handwriting. Once the cardinal completed his ballot form, he had to fold it lengthwise,...
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