Election of the Roman Pontiff, by Pope Paul VI, 1 October 1975


official portrait of Pope Paul VISince the Roman Pontiff, as successor of Saint Peter in the See of Rome, is Vicar of Christ on earth as well as supreme Shepherd and visible head of the universal Church, his election has always been an object of special attention. Careful measures have always been taken to assure a legitimate election and the freedom of those who cast a vote.

Over the centuries the Supreme Pontiffs have regarded it as their prerogative, right and duty to make the provisions they think best for the election of their successor. They have resisted all views that ecclesiastical practice should be changed and that the Popes should lose the right to determine, entirely on their own, the composition of the electoral college and the manner in which the college carries out its task. At the same time, however, although the manner of election retains important primitive elements that at one time were characteristic of the election of bishops, it has nonetheless gradually undergone changes as a result of the constant concern already mentioned, that is, the concern to prevent illegitimate interference and to safeguard a proper procedure.

Through this process of gradual change, the most important role in the election of the Pope has been assigned to the three major orders of the Roman clergy – bishops, priests and deacons – who are called the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Their primary role in the election of the Roman Pontiff was set forth in the well-known decree In nomine Domini which Nicholas II promulgated at the Roman synod of 1059. At the Third Lateran Council (1179) Alexander III published the Constitution Licet de evitanda which definitely established that the election is the prerogative solely of the College of Cardinals who represent the Roman Church and that all other participants are to be excluded. All later provisions have had as their sole purpose to assure the effectiveness of this original manner of electing the Roman Pontiff or to adapt it to new circumstances.

The tradition of the Roman Church makes it likewise clear that the college to which is entrusted the duty of electing the Pontiff is permanent and so constituted that if the Apostolic See happens to be vacant, the college can continue to act. It cannot be denied that a previously established body of electors is still required and that this body should not have so many members that it cannot easily and quickly be assembled (as becomes necessary at times in periods of difficulty for the Church and the Supreme Pontificate). It is not permissible, therefore, that the electors of the pope should themselves be elected or deputed only when the Apostolic See has become vacant.

Guided by these various considerations, Our recent predecessors have preserved this ancient manner of election in all its important fundamental aspects and have safeguarded its exercise. At the same time, however, they have striven to improve it by adapting it to new conditions. This is what Pius XII did, for example, when he added a number of Fathers to the College of Cardinals so that it might be more representative of the various nations and Churches of the Catholic world. John XXIII had the same end in view when he increased the number of members in the College and decreed that they should all receive the rank of bishop. We Ourselves have already acted in this area by publishing norms for the Sacred College of Cardinals, especially the norms contained in the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Ingravescentem aetatem. We now judge it necessary to revise some points relating to the election of a Pontiff, so that they may be appropriate in the present situation and truly contribute to the good of the Church. We also reassert, however, the principle that, in accordance with long-standing tradition, the election of the Roman Pontiff is the prerogative of the Church of Rome as represented by the Sacred College of Cardinals.

Therefore, following the example of Our predecessors, on the basis of such knowledge and careful reflection, and in an exercise of the fullness of apostolic authority, We have determined to publish the norms contained in this constitution. This constitution replaces the constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis of Pius XII (December 8, 1945) and the prescriptions which John XXIII promulgated in his Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Summi Pontificis Electi (September 5, 1962).




The Power of the Sacred College of Cardinals

When the Apostolic See Is Vacant The College governs the Church

1. While the Apostolic See is vacant, the government of the Church is in the hands of the Sacred College of Cardinals but only for ordinary business and other matters that cannot be postponed and for the preparations required for the election of a new Pontiff. In making such preparations, the College is bound by the provisions of this constitution and by the limitations it imposes.

2. During the period in question, therefore, the Sacred College has no authority or jurisdiction in questions that were reserved to the Supreme Pontiff while he was alive; decisions in all such matters must be left solely to the future Pontiff. We therefore proclaim invalid and void any exercise by the college of authority or jurisdiction which belongs to the Pope when he is alive, except to the extent that such an exercise is explicitly permitted by this constitution.

3. We also decree that the Sacred College of Cardinals may not in any way dispose of any rights of the Apostolic See and the Church of Rome nor derogate from them directly or indirectly, even when it is a question of resolving disputes or prosecuting actions contrary to these rights after the death of the pope. All must be concerned to protect these rights.

4. Neither is it legitimate, while the Apostolic See is vacant, to amend the laws made by the Roman Pontiffs or to add anything to them or to dispense from sections of them, especially sections having to do with arrangements for the election of the Supreme Pontiff. By Our supreme authority We now declare null and void anything done or attempted contrary to this decree.

Resolution of doubts

5. If doubts arise about the meaning of prescriptions in this constitution or about the way they are to be implemented, We declare and decree that on these points the Sacred College of Cardinals has the power to decide. Therefore, We grant the Sacred College of Cardinals the authority to interpret doubtful or disputed passages. In this regard, We decree that if decisions must be made on these or similar points (except on the act of election itself), it is enough if the majority of the assembled cardinals is of the same opinion.

6. Similarly, if some matter must be expedited which according to the majority of the assembled cardinals cannot be postponed, the Sacred College of Cardinals is to act in accordance with the majority view.


Meetings of the Cardinals

Two types of meetings

7. While the See is vacant and before the entry into the conclave, two types of meetings of the cardinals, and the cardinals alone, are to be held One is a general meeting of the whole college; the other, a special meeting. All cardinals not legitimately prevented are to attend the general meetings as soon as they have been informed that the apostolic see is vacant. Cardinals who have completed their 80th year are free to attend or not attend. The special meeting is attended by the Cardinal Camerlengo [Chamberlain] of the Holy Roman Church and three other cardinals, one from each order, who are chosen by lot from among all who, in accordance with no. 33 of this constitution, have the right to cast a vote in electing the Pontiff. The office of these three cardinals, called assistants, is terminated on the third day after the beginning of the conclave. They are replaced then, and every third day thereafter, by three others, also chosen by lot. During the conclave, more serious matters, should they arise, are settled at the general meeting of the cardinal electors. Ordinary business continues to be handled at the special meetings. During the general and special meetings, while the see is vacant, the cardinals wear the customary black cassock with red piping and red sash.

The special meetings

8. During the special meetings, only business of lesser moment is to be dispatched, such as occurs daily or constantly. If anything arises of a more serious nature or requiring more thorough examination, it is to be presented to the general meeting. In addition, if a decision, solution or refusal of a request is reached during one special meeting, it cannot be withdrawn, amended or granted in another. The right to take a changed position rests solely with the general meeting. At the latter a change can be made only by a plurality or majority of votes.

9. General meetings of the Cardinals are to take place in the Apostolic Vatican Palace or, if circumstances require, in some place the Cardinals themselves judge more suitable. The dean of the sacred college presides at these meetings or, in his absence, the subdean. If, however, one or other or both of these Cardinals is not to enter the conclave because he has completed his 80th year, the cardinal who ranks highest in the general order of precedence is to preside over any general meeting of the Cardinals that may take place within the conclave (in accordance with no. 7).

Secret ballot on important business

10. When business of greater moment is being handled, the votes at the meetings of the cardinals are to be taken by a secret ballot rather than by voice.

11. The general meetings that precede the conclave and are therefore called preparatory are to be held daily, from the day determined by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church together with the three senior cardinals of each order; the meetings are to be held even on the days when the rites for the dead pontiff are being celebrated. The reason for the meetings is twofold: to allow the Cardinal Camerlengo to inquire into the views of the Sacred College, as he communicates to it matters he thinks necessary or timely, and to afford each Cardinal the opportunity to make known his views on current business, to seek an explanation of doubtful points and to propose subjects for discussion.

Oath on observing Part I of this constitution

12. At the first general meeting Part I of this constitution, “On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See,” is to be read. After the reading, all the cardinals present are to take an oath to observe its prescriptions and to maintain secrecy. The oath is also to be taken by cardinals who arrive later on and are in attendance at subsequent meetings. The formula of the oath which is to be read by the Cardinal Dean in the presence of the other cardinals, is as follows:

“We, the Cardinal Bishops, Priests and Deacons of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear on oath that we will, each and all of us, observe exactly all that is set down in the Apostolic Constitution The Election of the Roman Pontiff of the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, and that we will maintain a scrupulous secrecy concerning everything discussed in the meetings of the cardinals whether before or during the conclave, and concerning everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

Then each Cardinal is to say: “And I, . . . Cardinal . . ., solemnly promise and swear on oath.” Laying his hand on the Gospel, each is to add: “So help me God and these holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand.”

Preparations for the conclave

13. At one of the meetings and at those immediately subsequent to it, the Cardinals, following a prescribed agenda, are to reach decisions on matters of greater urgency as regards beginning the conclave; namely:

a) They are to decide on the day, hour, and manner in which the body of the dead pontiff is to be carried to the Vatican Basilica and exposed for the homage of the faithful;

b) They are to see to all necessary preparations for the funeral rites of the dead pontiff, which shall last for nine successive days, and they are to determine when the rites are to begin;

c) They are to appoint two committees or commissions, with three Cardinals on each.

One of these commissions shall designate those who are to enter the conclave and perform various services, as well as the person who is to be in charge of these individuals. It is also to consider carefully whether any conclavist or private servant is to be admitted to the conclave, in accordance with no. 45 of this constitution. The other commission is to oversee the building and enclosing of the conclave, and the arrangement of the cells, or private rooms, in it;

d) They are to estimate and approve the expenses of the conclave;

e) They are to read the documents left for the Sacred College of Cardinals by the dead pontiff, if there be am such documents;

f) They are to see to the breaking of the Fisherman’s Ring and the lead seal under which apostolic letters are sent;

g) Cells in the conclave are to be assigned to the electors by lot, unless the poor health of an elector makes some other arrangement advisable; h) They are to set the day and the hour for entering the conclave.


Various Offices during the Vacancy of the Apostolic See

Resignation of offices; exceptions to this rule

14. In accordance with the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, all Cardinals who are prefects of the agencies of the Roman Curia, including the Cardinal Secretary of State, are to resign their offices at the death of the pontiff. Exceptions are the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, the Major Penitentiary and the Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome; these are to handle ordinary business and bring before the Sacred College of Cardinals matters requiring referral to the Supreme Pontiff.

15. If the office of Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church or that of Major Penitentiary should happen to be vacant when the pope dies or should fall vacant before his successor is elected, the Sacred College of Cardinals should, as soon as possible, elect a cardinal (or cardinals) to fill the office (offices) until the election of a new pontiff. In each of these cases, the election is to be by secret vote of all the Cardinals present.

Votes are to be cast by means of ballots which are distributed and collected by the masters of ceremonies who shall open them in the presence of the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church and the three cardinal assistants, if the vote is for Major Penitentiary, or in the presence of the three cardinal assistants and the secretary of the sacred college, if the vote is for Camerlengo.

The individual who receives the majority of votes is elected and automatically receives all faculties for the office. If the votes should be equal in number for two individuals, he is elected who belongs to the higher order, or who, if both are of the same order, was admitted earlier into the sacred college.

Until a Camerlengo is elected, his duties are to be performed by the dean of the sacred college, who has power to make decisions without delay, as circumstances require.

Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome

16. If the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome should die while the see is vacant, the assistant vicar then in office has all the faculties, authority and powers which the vicar himself had been given for his office, and which the pope himself customarily gives the assistant vicar when there is no vicar and until he appoints a new vicar. If there is no assistant vicar or if he is prevented, the auxiliary bishop appointed the longest is to take over the duties.

17. While the see is vacant, it shall be the duty of the Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church to rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three cardinal assistants.

He is to obtain the approval of the sacred college once and for all for matters of lesser moment but in each case for business of greater moment. It is therefore, the duty of the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, as soon as he has received word of the pontiff’s death from the prefect of the pontifical household, to verify the pope’s death legally, in the presence of the pontifical master of ceremonies, the clerical prelates of the reverend apostolic chamber, and the secretary-chancellor of the same. The latter shall draw up an authentic record of the death.

The Camerlengo is then to seal up the private apartments of the pontiff; to announce the pope’s death to the cardinal vicar of the city, who will in turn make a special announcement of it to the people of Rome; to go to the Apostolic Vatican Palace and take possession of it, either in person or through a delegate, as well as ore of the palaces at the Lateran and at Castel Gandolfo, and to see to the protection and administration of these premises; with the advice of the cardinals present from the three orders, to determine everything relating to the pope’s burial, unless the pope himself during his lifetime indicated his own wishes in the matter; and, in the name and with the consent of the sacred college, to see to whatever the circumstances of the moment suggest with regard to protecting the rights of the Apostolic See and properly administering its business.

The Major Penitentiary

18. While the see is vacant, the Major Penitentiary and his officials have the power to do and expedite what Our predecessor Pius XI laid down in his Apostolic Constitution Quae divinitus of March 25, 1935.

19 As soon as the dean of the sacred college learns of the pope’s death from the prefect of the pontifical household, he is to relay the news to all the cardinals and summon them to attend the meetings of the sacred college and, if they enjoy the right, to take part in the conclave at the proper time. He shall also communicate the news of the pope’s death to the ambassadors or representatives of the various nations to the Apostolic See, as well as to the highest authorities in their countries.

20. As is provided in the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae the substitute secretary of state (substitute papal secretary) is to continue the duties of his office while the see is vacant; he is responsible the Sacred College of Cardinals.

Papal legates

21. The office and powers of the papal legates likewise continue while the see is vacant.

22. The almoner of His Holiness also continues his works of charity, in the manner in which he was accustomed while the pontiff was alive. He is subordinate, however, to the Sacred College of Cardinals and dependent on them from the time of the pope’s death to the election of a new pontiff. It is the duty of the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church to issue any instructions in this area.

23. While the apostolic see is vacant, the civil power of the Supreme Pontiff in the government of Vatican City passes in its entirety to the Sacred College of Cardinals.

The college cannot issue decrees, however, except in cases of urgent need, and then only for the period of the see’s vacancy. These decrees will be valid thereafter only if the new pontiff confirms them.


The Faculties of the Sacred Congregations and Tribunals of the Roman Curia, While the Apostolic See Is Vacant

No extraordinary faculties

24. While the apostolic see is vacant, the sacred congregations have no power in matters in which they cannot act and do business, while the see is occupied, except “after having spoken with His Holiness” or “as a result of an audience with His Holiness” or “in virtue of special and extraordinary faculties” which the Roman Pontiff customarily grants to the prefects of these congregations.

25. The ordinary faculties granted to each congregation do not cease at the pope’s death. We decree, however, that the congregations are to use these faculties only to grant favors of lesser moment, while reserving for the future pontiff matters of greater importance or matters in dispute, provided a decision on these can be postponed. If a decision cannot be postponed, the Sacred College of Cardinals can entrust it to the cardinal who was prefect up to the pope’s death, and to the other cardinals, of the agency to which the Supreme Pontiff would probably have committed the matter for examination. In these circumstances, and until a pontiff is elected, the cardinals in question can make the provisional decision which they judge best suited to guarding and protecting the rights and traditions of the Church.

The Apostolic Signatura and the Sacred Roman Rota

26. While the see is vacant, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and the Tribunal of the Sacred Roman Rota are to carry on their business according to their own regulations, while observing the prescriptions of Canons 244.1 and 1603.


The Funeral Rites for the Roman Pontiff

Norms to be followed

27. When the Roman Pontiff dies, the cardinals are to celebrate the rites for his soul on nine successive days, according to the Order of Funeral Rites for a Deceased Roman Pontiff, which, like the Order of Sacred Rites for a Conclave, is to be made an appendix to this constitution.

28. If interment is to be in the Vatican Basilica, an authentic record of it is to be drawn up by the notary of the Chapter of the Basilica. Afterward. a delegate of the Cardinal Camerlengo and a delegate of the prefect of the pontifical household will separately sign the documents which attest to the interment. The former delegate shall sign in the presence of the reverend apostolic chamber, the latter in the presence of the prefect of the pontifical household.

Death outside Rome

29. If the Roman Pontiff dies outside the city, the Sacred College of Cardinals shall take all the measures necessary to assure that the corpse is transferred in a worthy and fitting manner to the Vatican Basilica.

30. No one may photograph a dying or dead Supreme Pontiff in his apartments or record his words for later transmission. If, when the pope has died, anyone wants to take a picture for probative testimony, he must request permission of the Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; the latter is not to allow such a picture of the Supreme Pontiff to be taken unless the body is clad in pontifical vestments.

31. No part of the Supreme Pontiff’s apartments is to be used as living quarters before or during the conclave.

32. If the deceased Supreme Pontiff has made a will concerning his possessions and his private letters and documents and has appointed an executor, the latter, in accordance with the powers assigned him by the testator, is to decide upon and carry out what should be done with these private possessions and writings. The executor shall render an account of his office only to the new Supreme Pontiff.




The Electors of the Roman Pontiff

The cardinals alone elect

33. The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, except for those of them who, in accordance with the norm previously established, shall have completed their 80th year when the time comes for entering into the conclave; the number of cardinal electors shall not, however, exceed 120. Excluded from among the electors, therefore, is any person of any other ecclesiastical rank and any layperson of whatever rank and order.

34. If it should happen that the Roman Pontiff dies during the celebration of a general council or a synod of bishops, whether at Rome or anywhere else in the world, the election of the new pontiff is to be carried out solely and exclusively by the cardinal electors just mentioned, and not by the council of the synod of bishops. We, therefore, declare null and void any acts which rashly presume to change either the manner of election or the college of electors. Moreover, the general council or the synod of bishops, no matter what point it may have reached, is to be understood as automatically suspended immediately upon sure notice that the pope has died. Without any delay, the council or synod is to suspend all meetings, congregations and sessions and to cease drawing up or preparing any decrees or canons, under pain of their nullity. Nor may the council or synod proceed further, for any reason whatsoever, no matter how serious and deserving of special consideration, until a canonically elected new pope bids the council or synod take up and continue its work.

No cardinal excluded

35. No cardinal elector may be excluded from active and passive participation in the election of the Supreme Pontiff because of or on pretext of any excommunication, suspension, interdict or other ecclesiastical impediment. Any such censures are to be regarded as suspended as far as the effect of the election is concerned.

36. A cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, once he is appointed in a consistory and his name is published, automatically has the right to vote for a pontiff, even though he has not yet received his biretta and has not been sent his cardinal’s ring and has not yet taken the customary oath of fidelity.

However, cardinals who have been canonically deposed or who have, with the consent of the Roman Pontiff, renounced the cardinalatial dignity do not have the right to vote; nor while the see is vacant may the Sacred College of Cardinals readmit such cardinals and restore this right to them.

Waiting for cardinals to arrive

37. We also prescribe that after the death of the pontiff the cardinals present are to wait 15 full days for the absent cardinals.

Permission is granted the Sacred College of Cardinals to delay the beginning of the conclave for a few more days; however, once 20 days at most have passed, the cardinal electors present are to enter the conclave and proceed to the business of the election.

38. If other cardinal electors arrive before the matter has been expedited, that is, before the Church has been given a new pastor, they are to be admitted to the electoral process at the point it has already reached.

39. All the cardinal electors, when summoned to the election of a new pontiff by the dean or by some other cardinal acting in his name, are obliged in virtue of holy obedience to obey the summons and go to the place appointed for the election, unless they are prevented by ill health or some other serious obstacle. The impediment must, however, be acknowledged by the Sacred College of Cardinals.

Entering and leaving the conclave

40. If a cardinal with the right to vote refuses to enter the conclave or, having entered it, leaves it except for reason of manifest ill health (a reason which must be supported by the sworn testimony of the doctors and accepted by the majority of the electors), there is to be no waiting for him nor is he to be admitted again to the election but the others are to proceed freely to the election of a Supreme Pontiff.

If a cardinal elector is forced to leave the conclave because of illness, the others are to proceed to the election without asking for his vote; if he wishes to return to the conclave after recovering his health or even before, he is to be readmitted.

If a cardinal leaves the conclave for some other serious reason which is approved by the majority of the electors, he can return to it while the election is still going on.


The Conclave and Those Who Participate In it

Necessity of a “conclave”

41. The election of the Supreme Pontiff is to be held in the conclave, once the latter has been closed off this conclave being established either in the Vatican Palace, as is customary, or elsewhere for some special reason. However, this is not to be considered a condition for the validity of the election, as prescribed by Gregory XV or any other pontifical decree.

42. “Conclave” means the carefully determined place, a kind of sacred retreat, where, after asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten them, the cardinal electors choose the Supreme Pontiff, and where the cardinals and other officials and staff, together with the conclavists, if there be any, remain day and night until the election is complete, and do not communicate with persons and things outside, in accordance with the following modalities and norms.

43. In addition to the cardinal electors, the following enter the conclave: the secretary of the Sacred College of Cardinals, who acts as secretary of the conclave; the vicar general of the Roman Pontiff for Vatican City, along with one or more assistants for the sacristy; the master of pontifical ceremonies and the papal masters of ceremonies for the duties proper to them. It is also licit for the cardinal dean or the cardinal who replaces him to bring an ecclesiastic as his assistant.

44. Also to be present are to be some priests from the religious orders, so that there may be a sufficient number of confessors in the various languages; two doctors, one of them a surgeon, the other a general practitioner, and one or two male nurses; the architect of the conclave with two experts in technological matters (cf. nos. 55 and 61). All of these are to be nominated by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church and his cardinal assistants, and approved by a majority of the cardinals.

To these are to be added others in suitable numbers who will minister to the needs of the conclave; they are appointed by the committee for commission of cardinals established for the purpose (cf. no. 13c).

45. The cardinal electors may not bring with them conclavists, or private servants, clerical or lay. This can be permitted only by way of exception in the special case of serious ill health. The cardinal in question shall submit an express request, with his reasons, to the Cardinal Camerlengo who in turn will propose it to the committee or commission of cardinals appointed for the purpose. The latter are to decide and, if they think the request should be granted, they are to investigate very carefully the character of the person admitted as a servant.

46. All the officials and staff, clerical or lay, of the conclave, as well as all the conclavists, if there are any, are to take an oath, in Latin or some other language; it is to be administered by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, once he has made sure that each of them clearly understands the importance of the oath and the meaning of the formula. One or two days before entering into the conclave, in the presence of the secretary of the conclave and the master of pontifical ceremonies, who have been delegated for the purpose by the Camerlengo (in whose presence they themselves had earlier taken the oath), the officials and others are to pronounce the following formula in the national language suitable for them:

“I, . . ., promise and swear that I will preserve an inviolate secrecy concerning each and every action taken and decree passed in the meetings of the cardinals with regard to the election of the new pontiff, and concerning everything done in the conclave or place of election that directly or indirectly has to do with the balloting, and concerning everything that I shall in any way come to know. Neither directly nor indirectly, by gesture or word or writing or in any other way, shall I violate this secrecy. I also promise and swear that in the conclave I shall not use any kind of transmitter or receiver or any photographic equipment—this under pain of automatic excommunication reserved in a very special way to the Apostolic See, if I violate this precept. I shall preserve this secrecy with scrupulous care even after the election of the new pontiff, unless he grants me special permission and explicit authorization.

“I likewise promise and swear that I shall in no way aid in or favor any interference, protest or other action by which civil authorities of any order or rank or any groups of persons or any individuals try to take a hand in the election of the pontiff.

“So help me God and these holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand.”

47. Lay officials and other lay staff members who leave the conclave are not permitted to return. They may leave only for reason of evident and notable ill health that is attested on oath by the doctors and with the consent of the Cardinal Camerlengo and the three cardinal assistants w ho must be acting in good conscience in this matter. If the need arises, substitutes may enter to take the place of those who leave on account of illness. These substitutes must be legitimately approved and accepted and must already have taken the oath.

48. If a cardinal elector who has brought a conclavist with him should die in the conclave, the conclavist is to leave immediately and may not be taken into the service of any other cardinal elector in the same conclave.


Entry into the Conclave

Initial rites; oath of the electors

49. When the funeral rites for the deceased pontiff have been duly carried out and the conclave has meanwhile been prepared, the cardinal electors gather on the appointed day in the Vatican Basilica of Saint Peter or elsewhere as the circumstances of time and place dictate. Here the ceremonies take place that are appointed in the Order of Sacred Rites for a Conclave.

Immediately after morning Mass, or in the afternoon of that day if it seems preferable, the electors enter the conclave. When they reach the chapel, a suitable prayer is recited, and the “Let all (but the electors) depart” is proclaimed. Then part II of this constitution, “On the Election of the Roman Pontiff,” is to be read, after which the cardinal electors take an oath according to the following formula which the dean or the cardinal who is senior in rank and age is to recite in a loud voice:

“Each and all of us, the cardinal electors present in this conclave, promise and swear on oath that we will observe faithfully and to the letter all the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution The Election of the Roman Pontiff of the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, dated October 1, 1975. We also promise and swear on oath that whoever of us in God’s providence is elected Roman Pontiff will fully and zealously assert and defend the spiritual and temporal rights and freedom of the Holy See, and, if need arises, will lay unyielding claim to them. Above all, we promise and swear on oath that all of us, and even our conclavists if there be any, will preserve a scrupulous secrecy regarding everything that relates in any way to the election of the Roman Pontiff and everything that goes on in the conclave and relates directly or indirectly to the voting. Moreover, we will never in any way break that secrecy whether during the conclave or after the election of the new pontiff, unless that same pontiff gives us special permission and explicit authorization. In addition, we will under no conditions accept from any civil power, under any pretext, a commission to propose a veto or “exclusion,” even in the form of a simple wish; nor will we manifest such a desired veto, should we in any way come to know of one, or give aid or favor to any interference, protest or other form of intervention, by which secular authorities of any order or rank or any groups of persons or any individuals try to take a hand in the election of the pontiff.”

Then each cardinal elector is to say: “And I, . . . Cardinal . . ., promise and swear on oath”; whereupon he is to place his hand on the Gospel and add: “So help me God and these holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand.”

Afterward, the Cardinal Dean or the Cardinal senior in rank and age shall exhort those present, in a brief and suitable discourse, to take up the business of the election in the proper way and with a right intention, looking solely to the good of the universal Church.

The oath taken by others present

50. When all this has been done, the prefect of the pontifical household, the special delegate of the pontifical commission for Vatican City, and the prefect of the Papal Swiss Guards, to whom this constitution assigns the duty of protecting the conclave, are to take their oath, according to the prescribed formula, in the presence of the cardinal dean or the first-ranking cardinal and all the cardinal electors.

The oath is also to be taken by the clerical prelates of the Reverend Apostolic Chamber, the participant protonotaries apostolic, and the auditors of the Sacred Roman Rota, all of whom are charged to maintain a watchful guard over everything that is brought into the conclave or taken from it. They are assisted by the papal masters of ceremonies.

51. All the cardinal electors now go to the cells assigned them, except for the Cardinal Camerlengo and the three cardinal assistants, who remain in the chapel and proceed to the closing off of the conclave. Meanwhile, the officials of the conclave and the other staff members take the above mentioned oath as soon as possible (if they have not already done so), in the presence of the secretary of the conclave and the master of pontifical ceremonies, who are delegated for this purpose by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.

Search of the premises

52. Finally, after a suitable signal has been given at the order of the cardinal dean or the first-ranking cardinal, the Camerlengo and the three cardinal assistants, together with the master of pontifical ceremonies and the other masters of ceremonies, the architect of the conclave and the two technicians, shall carefully search the premises to see that no one barred from the conclave is still there. For the same reason, they shall go over the list of the staff for the conclave, including any conclavists who may be serving the cardinal electors, lest an outsider have made his way among them; in order to conduct this check, all are bidden to enter the chapel where each answers to his name.

53. After a careful examination, the conclave is locked from the outside and the inside by the prefect of the pontifical household, the special delegate of the pontifical commission for Vatican City, and the prefect of the Papal Swiss Guards, in the presence of the dean of the clerical prelates of the Reverend Apostolic Chamber, as well as of the secretary-chancellor of the latter (who is deputed for the purpose by Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church) and the masters of ceremonies and the architects. The keys are entrusted to the special delegate of the pontifical commission for Vatican City.

Records of the looking of the conclave

54. Separate records are made of the exterior and interior lockings. One is drawn up by the master of pontifical ceremonies and signed by the secretary of the conclave and the master of pontifical ceremonies him self (acting as notary), with two masters of ceremonies as witnesses. The other record is drawn up by one of the clerical prelates of the Reverend Apostolic Chamber, who is deputed for this by the Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; this is done in the office of the special delegate of the pontifical commission for Vatican City, and signed by the prefect of the pontifical household, the special delegate himself, and the prefect of the Papal Swiss Guards


The Observance of Secrecy Concerning All That Happens In the Conclave

Guarding of the premises

55. The Cardinal Camerlengo and the three cardinals who are his assistants at any given time are bound to keep careful watch and to visit the entire premises frequently, in person or through delegates, in order to see that the conclave enclosure is in no way breached. At these visitations, the two technicians are always to be present and, if necessary, to use the apt means our age provides for detecting the possible presence of the instruments mentioned below in no. 61. If any such instruments be found, those responsible for them are to be expelled from the conclave and be subject to serious penalties as the future pontiff shall judge fit.

56. Once the conclave is locked, no one is to be admitted to speak to the cardinal electors or others in the conclave, except in the presence of the prelates charged with guarding the conclave and they may only speak aloud so that others can understand what they say. If any one should enter the conclave by stealth, he is automatically deprived of every ecclesiastical honor, rank, office and benefice and, according to who he is, subjected to other suitable punishments.

Communication by letter and in other ways

57. We also decree that no letters or writings of any kind, even printed, are to be sent either to those in the conclave, including the cardinal electors, or especially from the conclave to persons outside, unless they have in each and every case been carefully examined by the secretary of the conclave and the prelate assigned to guard the conclave. The only exception to this rule is the correspondence between the Tribunal of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary and the Cardinal Major Penitentiary who is in the conclave; such correspondence is to be free and unhindered, and the letters, bearing the seal of office, are not subject to examination and inspection.

We also explicitly forbid the sending of newspapers and periodicals into or out of the conclave.

58. The staff of the conclave must also carefully avoid anything that would in any way, directly or indirectly, by word, writing, sign or in any other manner, violate secrecy— this, under pain of automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

59. In particular, We forbid the cardinal electors to make known to servants they may have with them or to anyone else anything that directly or indirectly relates to the voting or that is done or decreed with regard to the election of the pontiff in the meetings of the cardinals either before or during the conclave.

Secrecy of electors after the conclave

60. In addition, We order the cardinal electors, under serious obligation in conscience, to observe this secrecy even after the election of the new pontiff. They must remember that they may in no way break the secrecy unless the new pontiff gives special and explicit permission to do so. We extend this prohibition to all who are present in the conclave, should any of them, innocently or otherwise, gain knowledge of what has been done in the conclave.

61. Finally, in order to protect the cardinal electors against the indiscretion of others and against insidious attempts to limit their independence of judgment and freedom of decision, We entirely forbid the introduction into the conclave, under any pretext, or the use, should these already be there, of any equipment for recording, playing back or transmitting voices or pictures.


The Method of Election

Three methods of election

62. On the morning of the day after the conclave has been locked, the cardinal electors who are not prevented by ill health shall, at a signal, assemble in the appointed chapel and concelebrate, or be present at, the Eucharistic sacrifice. When Mass is over and the Holy Spirit has been invoked, they shall immediately proceed to the election. The election must be conducted according to one or other of the three methods or forms described below, otherwise the election is null and void, except as provided for in no 76.

Method of acclamation

63. The first method can be called the method of acclamation or inspiration; it is used when the cardinal electors, as though inspired by the Holy Spirit, freely and spontaneously pro claim one man Supreme Pontiff. ac claiming him unanimously. This method can be used only in the closed conclave and must involve the use of the word eligo (I choose), pronounced intelligibly or written if the elector is unable to use his voice. A further requirement is that the method be accepted by each and every cardinal elector present, including those who may have remained in their cells because of ill health. There can be no dissenting voice and care must be taken to see that no special negotiations are carried on with regard to the name of the person to be elected.

Consequently, if, for example, one of the cardinal electors, speaking spontaneously and without any special negotiations having taken place. should say, “Father Eminences, in view of the singular virtue and probity of the Very Reverend . . ., I judge him worthy of being elected Roman Pontiff, and I myself vote for him as pope”; and if, then, the other Fathers without exception accept the view of the first and unanimously vote for the same man, using the verb eligo and pronouncing it intelligibly or, if need be, writing it down: then the man is canonically elected by this method.

Method of compromise

64. The second method is called the method of compromise and is used when in special circumstances the cardinal electors give some of their number authority to act in the name of all and elect a pastor for the Catholic Church. In this case, too, each and every cardinal elector present in the closed conclave, without any dissenting voice, must agree to the concession of authority and put the election into the hands of a limited number of the fathers. This group must have an uneven number of members, at least nine and at most 15.

The cardinal electors are to sign some such formula as this: “In the name of the Lord. Amen. On the … day of the … month of the year . . ., we, the cardinal electors present at the conclave [a complete list of names follows], have determined and now determine, with no dissenting voice, to proceed to an election using the method of compromise. Therefore, in full and unanimous agreement, with no one dissenting, we choose as our representatives the Most Eminent Fathers, . . ., and give them full power and authority to provide a pastor for the Holy Roman Church. They are to act in the following manner …”

Here the cardinal electors who are handing over the authority shall clearly set down the method and form their representatives are to use in electing a pontiff.

The cardinal electors must determine what they require for the election to be valid, for example, whether the representatives must first propose the person of their choice to the whole college, or may simply proceed to elect him without further ado whether all the representatives must agree on the same person or a two-thirds majority is enough; whether they must choose someone from the electoral college or may choose someone from outside it; and so on. Also to be included in the instructions is the length of time for which the cardinal electors wish their representatives to have the power of electing. Finally, they must add words to this effect: “And we promise that we will accept as Roman Pontiff the person whom our representatives shall think worthy of being elected according to the above-described method.”

Once the representatives have accepted their mandate and the prescriptions governing its exercise, they are to assemble in a separate closed place. In order that they may talk more freely among themselves, they are to make it clear that they do not intend to give their consent by a verbal formula alone but must also put it in writing. When the representatives have finally carried out the election according to the form prescribed for them and have made their choice known in the conclave, the person thus elected is the true canonical pope.

Method of balloting

65. The third and ordinary method or form for electing a Roman Pontiff is by casting ballots. Here We fully confirm the rule determined long ago and subsequently observed with scrupulous care, that a two-thirds majority is required for the valid election of a Roman Pontiff. We also wish to keep in force the norm established by Our predecessor Pius XII, that the majority must always be two-thirds plus one.

66. Balloting involves three stages. The first, or prescrutinial, stage includes: (1) the preparation and distribution of ballots; this is done by the masters of ceremonies who are to give at least two or three ballots to each cardinal elector; (2) the choice by lot (with all the cardinal electors participating) of three examiners (scrutatores), three deputies to take care of the votes cast by the sick (infirmarii), and three controllers (recognitores); the lots are to be drawn by the lowest-ranking cardinal deacon who shall pull in order the names of the nine who are to be assigned these various duties; (3) the writing of the ballots, which is to be done secretly by each cardinal elector; he shall write down the name of his choice, making his handwriting unrecognizable as far as possible; he must not write more than one name on a ballot or his vote is nullified; (4) the folding of the ballot in half, so that it is reduced in width to about an inch.

Norms for the first stage

67. In dispatching this first stage of the balloting process, the following norms are to be observed. a) The ballot should be rectangular in shape, longer than it is wide; at the upper center should appear the words (printed, if possible): Eligo in Summum Pontificem (I choose as Supreme Pontiff), with room below for writing a name; thus, the ballot is so arranged that it can be folded in two (b) If, in choosing the examiners, deputies for the sick and controllers. the names of cardinal electors are drawn who for reason of sickness or some other impediment cannot carry out the duties, the names of others not so prevented must be drawn. The first three names drawn are the examiners, the next three the deputies for the sick and the final three the controllers. (c) While votes are being cast, the cardinal electors must be alone in the chapel; therefore, immediately after the ballots have been distributed and before the electors begin to write on them, the secretary of the conclave, the master of pontifical ceremonies, and the masters of ceremonies are to leave. When they have left, the lowest-ranking cardinal deacon is to close the door; he is to open and close it as often as is necessary, for example when the deputies for the sick leave to collect the ballots of the sick and when they return to the chapel.

The second stage

68. The second stage is that of the balloting proper. It comprises (1) the placing of the ballots in an urn, (2) the mixing and counting of the ballots and (3) the announcement of the vote. After writing and folding his ballot, each Cardinal elector, in order of precedence, shall raise his hand so that he may be seen and take his ballot to the altar where the examiners are stationed and on which stands an urn, covered with a dish, ready to receive the ballots.

At the altar the cardinal elector is to kneel, pray for a moment, rise and in a loud voice swear: “I call Christ the Lord, my judge, to witness that I am voting for the one whom, in the Lord, I think should be elected.” Then he puts the ballot on the plate and slides it into the urn; whereupon he bows to the altar and returns to his place.

If a cardinal elector present in the chapel is hindered by weakness from going to the altar, the last-chosen examiner goes to him. The elector, having taken the oath, gives the folded ballot to the examiner who carries it so that all can see it, takes it to the altar and, without any prayer or oath, puts it on the dish and slides it into the urn.

Voting by the sick

69. If any cardinal electors are ill in their rooms, the three deputies for the sick go to them with a small box that has a slit in the top through which the folded ballot can be inserted. Before the examiners give the box to the deputies, they open it and show the other electors that it is empty, then lock it and place the key on the altar. The deputies take the locked box and a plate containing the necessary number of ballots to each elector who is ill. The elector takes a ballot, secretly writes a name, folds the ballot and, after taking the oath, inserts it into the box. If the sick person cannot write, one of the three deputies, or some other cardinal elector whom the sick person deputes, takes an oath before the deputies that he will observe secrecy and then goes through the previous steps on behalf of the sick elector.

The deputies then take the box to the chapel where it is opened by the examiners who count the number of ballots in it; having ascertained that there are as many ballots as there are sick electors, they put the ballots on the dish one by one and finally slide them all together into the urn. Lest the balloting take too long, immediately after the senior cardinal elector has cast his vote the deputies can finish their own ballots and place them in the urn, then, while the other electors are voting, they can go for the ballots of the sick electors, as described above.

Counting the number of ballots

70. After all the cardinal electors have placed their ballots in the urn, the first examiner shakes it several times to mix up the ballots, then the third examiner immediately counts them, drawing them one by one from the urn and placing them in an empty receptacle set there for the purpose. If the number of ballots does not correspond to the number of electors, they are all to be burned and a second balloting is to be begun. If the number of ballots is correct, the results of the balloting are made known in the following manner.

71. The examiners sit at a table in front of the altar. The first examiner takes a ballot, opens it and, having seen the name written on it, hands it to the second examiner, who in turn sees the name and hands the ballot to the third examiner. The latter reads the name aloud in a clear voice so that all the electors present can record the vote on a sheet of paper ready for the purpose. The third examiner also records the name he has read from the ballot. If, in making the results of the voting known, the examiners find two ballots so folded in together that they appear to have been put into the urn by the same person, the two votes are to be regarded as one if they are for the same person. Neither is valid if they are for different persons. In any case, the balloting as a whole is not invalidated.

Once the ballots have been made public, the examiners total up the votes received by each candidate and record them on a separate page.

The third examiner, as he reads each ballot, puts a threaded needle through it at the word eligo, as a way of carefully preserving each in turn. Once all the names have been read, the ends of the thread are knotted together and the ballots thus tied in a bunch are placed in an empty urn or at one side of the table.

The third stage

72. The third and last stage is the postscrutinial stage. It includes (1) the counting of the total votes for each candidate, (2) the verification of the votes, (3) the burning of the ballots.

The examiners count up the votes each candidate has received. If no one receives two thirds of the votes plus one, no Pope is elected on that ballot. If someone does receive two thirds plus one, there has been a canonically valid election of a Roman Pontiff.

Whether or not there has been an election, the controllers must inspect both the ballots and the listing of the votes by the examiners, so as to determine whether the latter have faithfully and accurately carried out their duties.

Immediately after this verification and before the cardinal electors leave the room, all the ballots are to be burned by the examiners with the help of the secretary of the conclave and the masters of ceremonies, whom the junior cardinal deacon has meanwhile summoned for the purpose. If however, a second balloting is to take place immediately, the first set of the ballots is to be burned at the end, that is, along with the second set of ballots.

Records of the voting

73. In order that secrecy may be better guaranteed, We order each and all of the cardinal electors to hand over any notes dealing with the outcome of each balloting, to the Cardinal Camerlengo or one of the three cardinal assistants so that the notes may be burned along with the ballots.

We also decree that once the conclave is finished the Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church is to draw up a report, approved by the three cardinal assistants, which records the outcome of each balloting. This report, to be kept in the archives, is to be placed in a sealed envelope that may not be opened without the express permission of the Supreme Pontiff.

74. In confirmation of the norms established by Our predecessors, Saint Pius X and Pius XII, We prescribe that at both the morning and evening sessions, immediately after a balloting that has not resulted in an election the cardinal electors are to proceed to another balloting and vote again the votes cast on the previous ballots are not to be taken into account in the new balloting. In this second round of voting the same procedure is to be followed as in the first except that the electors need not repeat the oath or elect new examiners; the oaths taken and the examiners chosen for the first vote suffice.

75. The whole procedure for balloting is to be carefully observed by the cardinal electors at each round of votes which takes place daily in the morning and evening. All the sacred rites and prayers prescribed in the Order of Sacred Rites for a Conclave are to be followed.

Regulations for protracted voting

76 If the cardinal electors cannot agree on the person to be elected, then, after they have cast their votes in vain for three days according to the prescribed manner (nos. 65 ff.), one day is to be allowed to pass without voting The purpose is that the electors may pray to God and converse freely among themselves and that the senior cardinal deacon may deliver a short spiritual exhortation. The balloting is then begun anew, following the same method. If no election occurs, seven ballotings are to be conducted. Then there is to be another interruption for prayer, discussion and an exhortation by the senior cardinal priest.

Seven more ballotings, according to the prescribed manner, are then to be conducted if seven are needed. If these fail to produce an election, prayers are once more offered to God, the electors are to discuss the matter and the senior cardinal bishop is to deliver an exhortation to the electors.

At this point, the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church is to consult with the electors on procedure. The usual plan requiring two thirds of the votes plus one for a successful balloting is not to be abandoned unless the cardinal electors unanimously, without any dissenting voice, agree to another plan. This other plan may be the method of compromise (cf. no. 64) which requires only an absolute majority plus one or else a vote in which there are only two candidates, namely, the two who received the most votes in the immediately preceding balloting.

Nullity of an election

77. If an election is conducted according to some method other than the three listed above (nos. 63 ff.) or if the regulations governing each method are not followed, the election is automatically null and void (cf. no. 62). No further declaration of invalidity is needed and no power is bestowed on the man elected.

78. We declare that the norms thus far set down for the steps to be taken before the election and for the election itself of the Roman Pontiff are to be followed even if the vacancy in the Apostolic See should occur because the Supreme Pontiff has resigned.


What Is To Be Observed and Avoided the Election of the Roman Pontiff

Simony wrong but not invalidating

79. Like Our predecessors, We reject and condemn the detestable sin of simony in the election of the Roman Pontiff and We impose an automatic excommunication on all who are guilty of this sin. At the same time, however, We also confirm the act of Our predecessor Saint Pius X in canceling the invalidity of a simoniacal election as established by Julius II or any other pontifical decree. This We do lest the validity of the election of the Roman Pontiff be attacked.

80. We also confirm the prescriptions of Our predecessors which command that no one, even a cardinal, may, during the Roman Pontiff’s lifetime and without having consulted him, enter into consultations about his successor or promise a vote or make decisions regarding it in secret meetings.

Exclusion of outside intervention

81. We also confirm the decrees which Our predecessors issued with a view to excluding all external intervention in the election of the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, again in virtue of holy obedience and under pain of automatic excommunication We forbid the cardinal electors, all and singly, present and future, as well as the secretary of the conclave and all other participants in the conclave to accept from any civil authority whosoever and under any pretext the commission to propose a veto or “exclusion,” even in the form of a simple wish or to make such a veto known to the whole college assembled or to individual electors, either in writing or orally, either directly and in person or indirectly and through others, either before the conclave or during it. We intend this prohibition to extend to every form of interference, protest and wish by which secular authorities of any order or rank or any groups of persons or any individuals may try to take a hand in the election of a pontiff.

Freedom of the electors to vote

82. The cardinal electors are also to avoid all pacts, agreements, promises or any other commitments by which they can be bound to vote or not vote for any individual or individuals. We decree that any such agreements, even if made under oath, are null and void and that no one is bound to honor them; and We now impose an automatic excommunication on those who act against this prohibition. We do not intend, however, to forbid the electors to communicate their views on the election to one another while the see is vacant

83. We also forbid the cardinals to make concessions before the election, that is, to enter upon agreements which each party binds himself to honor should he be elevated to the papacy. Again, We declare any such promises to be null and void, even if made under oath.

84. Like Our predecessors, We strongly exhort the cardinal electors not to be guided by likes or dislikes in electing the pope, nor influenced by the favor or compliance of anyone, nor moved by the interference of persons … nigh places or pressure groups, or by the suasive language of the masters of the communications media, or by violence or fear or love of popularity. Instead, with God’s glory and the good of the Church as their sole guide, and having asked for divine help, let them vote for him whom they judge most fit to rule the universal Church in a fruitful and useful way.

85. During the conclave, the church is united in a very special way with its sacred pastors and, in particular, with the cardinals who are electing a Supreme Pontiff and she asks God for a new leader as a gift of his providential goodness. For, like the first Christian community of which we read in the Acts of the Apostles, the universal Church assembled in spirit with Mary the Mother of Jesus, must persevere in prayer. In consequence, the election of the new pontiff will not be the action solely of the electoral college, independent of any connection with the people of God but will, in a sense, be an action of the entire Church. For this reason, We decree that in every city and in other places as well, at least in the more important ones, as soon as news of the pope’s death arrives and again after his solemn funeral rites have been celebrated humble and persevering prayers should be offered to God that he would enlighten the minds of the electors and bring them into an agreement which will result in a quick, unanimous and fruitful election, such as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole Catholic world require.

Let the man elected not be daunted

86. We ask him who shall be elected not to be frightened by the seriousness of the office into refusing it when he is called to it but to bow humbly to the divine will and plan. For God who lays the burden on him also supports him so that he can carry the burden. He who is the source of the burden also helps a man to cope with it. He who bestows the dignity gives the weak man strength lest he falter before the magnitude of the task.


Acceptance and Proclamation of the Election

Coronation of the New Pope

87. After a canonically valid election, the junior cardinal deacon summons into the conclave assembly hall the secretary of the conclave, the master of pontifical ceremonies and the masters of ceremonies.

The cardinal dean or the cardinal senior in order and age, acting in the name of the whole electoral college, asks the consent of the person elected, in these words: “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?” As soon as the person elected declares his consent, he is asked: “What name do you wish to bear?” Then the master of pontifical ceremonies, acting as notary, with two masters of ceremonies as witnesses, makes a record of the new pope’s acceptance and his choice of name.

88. After his acceptance, the person elected, if he be a bishop, is straightway bishop of Rome, true pope, and head of the episcopal college. He possesses and can exercise full and supreme power over the universal Church.

If, however, the elected person does not possess the episcopal character, he is to be immediately ordained a bishop.

Homage of the electors

89. Once the formalities have been observed in accordance with the Order of Sacred Rites for a Conclave, the cardinal electors come forward in their proper order to offer homage and obedience to the newly elected Supreme Pontiff. When this has been done, thanks are given to God.

The senior cardinal deacon tells the waiting people of the new pope, and the latter immediately gives the Apostolic Blessing Urbi et Orbi (to the City [Rome] and the World).

If the newly elected pope lacks the episcopal character, homage and obedience is offered to him, but the people are told of the election only after he has been ordained a bishop.

90. If the elected person is not at the conclave, the regulations set down in the Order of the Sacred Rites for a Conclave are to be observed.

The episcopal Conclave of a Supreme Pontiff who is not yet a bishop (cf. nos. 88 and 89) is celebrated, according to Church usage, by the dean of the sacred college or, in his absence, the subdean or, if he too is prevented by the oldest cardinal bishop.

The Conclave ended

91. We decree that immediately after the new Supreme Pontiff has been elected and has given his assent, and after he has been ordained a bishop if need be (cf. nos. 88 and 89). the conclave is ended as far as its canonical effects are concerned (cf. no. 56). Therefore We decree that the newly elected Supreme Pontiff may now be approached by the substitute secretary of state (papal secretary), the secretary of the council for the public affairs of the Church, the prefect of the pontifical household, and others who must consult with the new pope on immediately pressing matters.

Crowning of the new pontiff

92. Finally, the new pontiff is to be crowned by the senior cardinal deacon.

Within a suitable period, he is also to take possession, in the prescribed manner, of the Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Lateran.


After serious and lengthy consideration, We decree and prescribe these norms. We declare abrogated, as provided for above, the apostolic constitutions and ordinations issued on these matters by other Roman pontiffs, and We will that this constitution take full effect now and in the future. All of its explanations and determinations are to be carefully observed and fulfilled by all whom they affect, anything to the contrary notwithstanding, even if it be worthy of very special consideration. If anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, acts otherwise than We have prescribed, We declare his acts null and void.

Rome, at Saint. Peter’s, October 1, 1975, the thirteenth year of Our pontificate.