Norms and Rites regulating Conclave Procedure

March 11th, 2013

The Second Chapter describes the most significant moments of the ceremony of entry into Conclave, with the specific oath that the cardinals swear. The process of voting and the scrutiny of the votes is also subject to a precise order to be followed exactly as are the preceding and following rituals and the moment of the chosen cardinal’s acceptance as Roman Pontiff and his proclamation.

The Book of the Rites of the Conclave ends, at the Fifth Chapter, with the solemn announcement of the election of the Pope and his first “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Always in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” promulgated by John Paul II, Benedict XVI introduced a few new features to improve the procedure of the Conclave. For example, at the “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice” Mass held the morning of the day that the Cardinal electors enter into Conclave, all cardinals are expected to participate, not just the Cardinal electors.

Another new addition is where the Rite of Admission to the Conclave and the Oaths of Cardinals should take place. The Pauline Chapel has been established as the particular place prescribed for these two acts.

The regulations also state that, for this ceremony, the senior cardinal in the hierarchy—who currently is Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re—will preside over the celebration, which begins with the sign of the cross and the proclamation of the following words:

“May the Lord, who guides our hearts in the love and patience of Christ, be with you all.”

After this brief prayer, Cardinal Re will invite all those gathered to begin the procession towards the Sistine Chapel, where the Conclave will take place, with these words:

“Venerable Brothers, after having celebrated the divine mystery, we now enter into Conclave to elect the Roman Pontiff.

The entire Church, joined with us in prayer, constantly calls upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, to elect from among us a worthy Pastor of all of Christ’s flock.

May the Lord direct our steps along the path of truth, so that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, we may always do that which is pleasing to him.”

After this prayer, the cardinals process into the Sistine Chapel following the minister bearing the cross, the choir, the masters of ceremony, the secretary of the College of Cardinals, and the prelate who will direct the meditation to the Cardinal electors. The procession is ended with a deacon, dressed in alb and stole, bearing the book of the Gospels, along with Cardinal Re and the Master of Ceremonies.

During the procession the cardinals will sing the Litany of Saints—a prayer that has eminent importance in celebrations of the Latin liturgy and that recalls saints of the West and the East—and concludes with the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” when they are are gathered in the Sistine Chapel.

A few names that are not customarily recited, but who correspond to the universal Church have been introduced in the canticle of the litany of Saints. These include: the patriarchs and prophets Abraham, Moses, and Elijah; St. Maron of Lebanon; St. Frumencio of Ethiopia and Eritrea; St. Nina of Georgia; St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia; St. Patrick of Ireland; and other saints representing various lands such as martyrs of Canada, Uganda, Korea, and Oceania; St. Rose of Lima, Peru for South America; and some Popes, including St. Pius X.

The solemn oath taken by the cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel follows the formula established in the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”. After the recitation of the Common Form of the oath, each cardinal then lays his hand upon the Gospels, and individually pronounces the prescribed form of the oath.

When the last of the Cardinal electors has taken the oath, the Master of Ceremonies recites the traditional formula “Extra omnes” and all those not taking part in the Conclave must leave the Sistine Chapel.

Besides the Cardinal electors, the only others who will be present in the Sistine Chapel are the Master of Ceremonies and Cardinal Prospero Grech, O.S.A., who will preach the second meditation concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church.

After that exhortation, Cardinal Re will propose to the College of Electors to begin with the first ballot of the Conclave.