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Cardinals enter Conclave

On Tuesday 12 March 2013 the Conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI will begin. The 115 cardinal-electors will attend a “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice” Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. From there they gather in the Pauline Chapel for a moment of collection and prayer and then process in order of precedence through the Sala Regia to the Sistine Chapel invoking the Holy Spirit.

There they will take their seats, again observing the order of precedence, to elect the 265th Successor to St Peter. Once they have taken their seats they will hear the second meditation established by the Apostolic Constitution governing the papal transitions. It will be given by the Maltese Augustinian, Cardinal Prospero Grech.

Following the meditation, the 115 cardinals will swear an oath to observe the rules of Conclave which include to maintain fidelity to the election of the Pope, to maintain secrecy, never to support or favour interference. The Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano, reads aloud the formula of the oath, the Cardinal electors respond: ‘I do so promise, pledge and swear’.

Once they have taken the oath, Msgr Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, will call out the words "Extra omnes" - "Everybody out". The doors to the Sistine Chapel will be locked to outsiders. According to the Apostolic Constitution, on the afternoon of the first day, one ballot may be held.  They will then have the first vote, after which their ballot papers will be burned. From Wednesday, two votes will be held each morning and afternoon - with ballots burned after each session - until one candidate attains a two-thirds majority (77 votes).Then the smoke will be white, meaning the 266th bishop of Rome will have been chosen.

Conclave in numbers:

  • There are 115 Cardinal Electors Four votes per day, two in the morning and two in the evening
  • The average age of the Cardinal Electors is 71
  • There were eight Conclaves in the 20th century - only three lasted longer than three days
  • The longest Conclave in the last two hundred years was 1830-1831. It lasted 50 days for a total of 83 ballots resulting in the election of Gregory XVI, the last religious elected to the papacy
  • The shortest Conclave in the 20th century took place in 1939. Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pius XII after just three ballots
  • There are 28 Italian Cardinal Electors in 2013 - the largest single nationality represented
  • 19 Cardinal Electors come from Latin America, 14 from North America, 11 from Africa, 10 from Asia and 1 from Oceania.
  • 67 of the Cardinals who will enter in the Conclave Tuesday were appointed by Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI