The conclave begins tomorrow to elect a new pope. In the past 100 years, no conclave has lasted longer than five days:

Pius X: 4 days; 7 Ballots; elected Aug 4 1903
Benedict XV: 3 days 10 Ballots; elected Sep 3 1914
Pius XI: 5 days; 14 Ballots; elected Feb 6 1922
Pius XII: 2 days; 3 Ballots; elected March 2 1939
John XXIII: 4 days; 11 Ballots; elected 28 Oct 1958
Paul VI: 3 days; 6 Ballots; elected 21 June 1963
John Paul I: 2 days; 4 Ballots; elected 26 Aug 1978
John Paul II: 3 days; 8 Ballots; elected 16 Oct 1978
Benedict XVI: 2 days 3 Ballots; elected April 19 2005

Let us pray for election of a new pope. [Remember there is an online Chapel here – where you can also light a candle.]

You can get an email sent to you when the pope is elected. [Yes – that website seems to assume the planet is made up of only two places: Rome and USA. And, although it allows the option of getting the info by email only (the only option it assures is working), it will not function unless you make up put in a cell phone number]

Originally, of course, the Bishop of Rome, as other bishops, was elected by the local clergy followed by the assent of the laity. The shift to the focus on cardinals happened in the eleventh century. The rules have constantly changed, each of the last few popes (including Benedict XVI) has changed the rules of his predecessor.

There are 115 cardinal electors. 77 votes are needed to elect a pope (under the rules that Benedict XVI changed from John Paul II’s). All cardinal electors were made cardinals either by John Paul II or Benedict XVI, and the majority by Benedict XVI. That need not mean the new pope, of necessity, will follow the conservatism of the last two. The Italians have an old saying for change, “after a fat pope a thin pope.” [Just look at John XXIII…]

US Cardinal Timothy Dolan (considered a papal contender) wrote on his blog on Friday:

So, you may be astonished to hear, we [the cardinals] spend most of our times discussing issues such as preaching; teaching the faith; celebrating the seven sacraments; inviting back those believers who have left; serving the sick and poor, the “least of these;” sustaining our splendid schools, hospitals, and agencies of charity; encouraging our brother priests, bishops, deacons, and consecrated women and men religious; supporting our pastors – and getting more of them! – and our parishes; forming future priests well; loving our married couples and our families, and defending the dignity of marriage; protecting life where it is most in danger because of war, poverty, or abortion; and reinforcing the universal call to holiness given all in the Church.

Those are the “big issues.” You may find that hard to believe, since the “word on the street” is that all we talk about is corruption in the Vatican, sexual abuse, money. Do these topics come up? Yes! Do they dominate? No!

There is, of course, a lot of reflection on the papacy currently. Here is a link to Diarmaid MacCulloch, a professor of the history of the church at the University of Oxford. And another by Fr Hans Küng.

Meanwhile, for some, the election of the pope already appears to be old news:

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