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2005 papal conclave

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Papal conclave
April 2005
Dates and location
18–19 April 2005
Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace,
Vatican City
Key officials
DeanJoseph Ratzinger
Sub-deanAngelo Sodano
CamerlengoEduardo Martínez Somalo
ProtopriestStephen Kim Sou-hwan
ProtodeaconJorge Medina
SecretaryFrancesco Monterisi
Elected pope
Joseph Ratzinger
Name taken: Benedict XVI
2013 →

A papal conclave was held on 18 and 19 April 2005 to elect a successor to John Paul II, who had died on 2 April 2005. Upon the pope's death, the cardinals of the Catholic Church who were in Rome met and set a date for the beginning of the conclave. Of the 117 eligible members of the College of Cardinals, those younger than 80 years of age at the time of the death of Pope John Paul II, all but two attended. After several days of private meetings attended by both cardinal electors and non-voting cardinals, the conclave began on 18 April 2005. It ended the following day after four ballots with the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger was the first member of the Roman Curia to become pope since Pius XII, elected in 1939. After accepting his election, he took the name Benedict XVI.


Pope John Paul II laid out new procedures for the election of his successor in his Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis in 1996.[1] It detailed the roles of the cardinals and support personnel, the scheduling of the conclave, the text of oaths, penalties for violating secrecy, and many details, even the shape of the ballots ("the ballot paper must be rectangular in shape"). He denied the cardinals the right to choose a pope by acclamation or by assigning the election to a select group of cardinals. He established new voting procedures the cardinals could follow if the balloting continued for several days, but those were not invoked in this conclave. He maintained the rule established by Paul VI that cardinals who reached the age of eighty before the day the pope died would not participate in the balloting.

In previous conclaves, the cardinal electors lived in the Sistine Chapel precincts throughout the balloting. Conditions were spartan and difficult for those with health problems. Showers and bathroom facilities were shared and sleeping areas separated by curtains.[2] John Paul kept the voting in the Sistine Chapel, but provided for the cardinal electors when not balloting to live, dine, and sleep in air-conditioned individual rooms in Domus Sanctae Marthae, better known by its Italian name Casa Santa Marta, a five-story building, completed in 1996, that normally serves as a guesthouse for visiting clergy.

The cardinals departed from his instructions only in that they did not assemble in the Pauline Chapel. Restoration work begun in 2002 required a change of venue,[3] and they used the Hall of Blessings instead.

The cardinal electors[edit]

Although there were 183 cardinals in all, cardinals aged 80 years or more at the time the papacy fell vacant were ineligible to vote in the conclave, according to rules established by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and modified slightly in 1996 by John Paul II.[1] At the time of John Paul's death, there were 117 cardinals under the age of 80.[a]

Papal Conclave of 2005
Electors 117 total
Absent 2
Jaime Sin (Manila)
Adolfo Suárez Rivera (Monterrey)
Present 115
Africa 11
Asia 10
Europe 58
Oceania 2
North America 22
South America 12

The cardinal electors came from slightly over fifty nations, a slight increase from the 49 represented at the 1978 conclave. About 30 of those countries had a single participant. The Italian electors were the most numerous at twenty, while the United States had the second largest group with 11. Poor health prevented two of the 117 cardinal electors from attending: Jaime Sin of the Philippines and Adolfo Antonio Suárez Rivera of Mexico.[5][6][b] All the electors were appointed by Pope John Paul II except for three: Jaime Sin, who was not attending, William Wakefield Baum and Joseph Ratzinger,[8] making Baum and Ratzinger the only participants with previous conclave experience from the two conclaves of 1978.[c] With 115 cardinals electors participating, this conclave saw the largest number of cardinals ever to elect a pope, a number later matched by the 2013 conclave. Both conclaves in 1978 had 111 electors. The required two-thirds majority needed to elect a pope in 2005 was 77 votes.

Pre-conclave activities[edit]

In the nine-day period of mourning following the funeral services for John Paul II, many cardinals attended a Mass celebrated each day by a senior cleric, often a cardinal elector or papabile, who had the opportunity to preach a homily. Celebrants included Bernard Law, Camillo Ruini, Jorge Medina, Eugênio de Araújo Sales, Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Leonardo Sandri, and Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti.[10]

On Saturday, 9 April, in Rome, 130 cardinals meeting in the "General Congregation", including some non-voting cardinals, agreed to Ratzinger's proposal that, while it would be unfair for a majority to restrict anyone's right to speak to the press, they might agree to such a restriction unanimously.[11][8] In La Repubblica, veteran journalist Gad Lerner wrote that preventing "public reflection" by the cardinals "mutes their relationship to the world", deprives them of a "beneficial antidote to excessive scheming", increases the influence of the Curia. He cited "the fertility of ideas" generated by public discussion during the two 1978 conclaves.[12]

Presiding over the pre-conclave events was the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Ratzinger. For the first several days discussions were conducted largely in Italian, putting some cardinals at a disadvantage. Ratzinger responded to complaints by organizing simultaneous translation.[11] On 14 April, in one of the daily general congregations, they heard the first of two mandated exhortations. The preacher was Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin friar and Church history scholar, who had for several years preached the Lenten sermons to the Pope and his staff.[13][14]

On 15 April, officials and personnel who were not cardinal-electors but had duties during the conclave formally took the oath of secrecy[15] The oath bound them to secrecy about anything they would observe in the course of their duties throughout the conclave, under pain of punishment at the discretion of the incoming pope. The oath was administered in the Hall of Blessings in the presence of the Camerlengo Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo and two masters of ceremonies.

One round of balloting was to be held the first evening. Then balloting was to continue until a new Pope was elected, with two ballots each morning and two each afternoon. The traditional procedure is that the ballots are burned, in times past reinforced by adding handfuls of dry or damp straw, to produce white smoke for a conclusive vote or black smoke for an inconclusive one. The straw had been replaced by chemically produced smoke. The ballot slips were to be burned at 12:00 and 19:00, Rome time (10:00 and 17:00 UTC) each day.

Conclave day one[edit]

On 18 April, the cardinals assembled in St. Peter's Basilica in the morning to concelebrate the mass Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice (For the Election of the Roman Pontiff).[16] As Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the principal concelebrant.[16][17] He chose to give the homily himself.[18] In the afternoon, the cardinals assembled in the Hall of Blessings for the procession to the Sistine Chapel.[19] The cardinals proceeded to the Sistine Chapel while the Litany of Saints was chanted. After taking their places the "Veni Creator Spiritus" ("Come, Creator Spirit") was sung. Cardinal Ratzinger read the oath. Each cardinal elector beginning with Ratzinger, followed by Vice Dean Angelo Sodano and the other cardinals in order of seniority, affirmed the oath by placing his hands on the book of the Gospels saying aloud: "And I, [name], do so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand."

Archbishop Piero Marini (the Papal Master of Ceremonies) intoned the words extra omnes (Latin, "everybody out!"), the members of the choir, security guards, and others left the chapel and the doors of the Sistine Chapel were closed. Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík, a non-elector and a Jesuit theologian, delivered the second required exhortation. He and Marini then left.[13][14]

First ballot[edit]

All discussions of the balloting are speculative. On the first ballot, according to the Italian daily Il Messaggero, Carlo Maria Martini, the archbishop of Milan, obtained 40 votes, Ratzinger obtained 38 votes, and Camillo Ruini a substantial number of votes, the rest of the votes being dispersed.[20]

An anonymous cardinal provided his diary to an Italian journalist in September 2005[21] and it was published in full in 2011.[22] That source gives the results of the first ballot as:[23]

At 20:05 local time, a thin white plume of smoke seemed for a moment to indicate the election was already over, and the 40,000 people who had spent the afternoon watching the ceremonies on large screens in St. Peter's Square broke into applause and song. But the smoke quickly grew stronger and clearly dark. The crowd quieted and cleared in a matter of minutes.[24]

Conclave day two[edit]

The two ballots on the morning of the second day failed to result in an election. The results of the second ballot, according to the anonymous cardinal's diary, were:[23]

  • Ratzinger – 65 votes
  • Bergoglio – 35 votes
  • Sodano – 4 votes
  • Tettamanzi – 2 votes
  • Biffi – 1 vote
  • Others – 8 votes

The results of the third ballot, according to the anonymous cardinal's diary, were:[23][d]

Tens of thousands of people waiting in St Peter's Square reacted with timid applause and then silence a little before noon when smoke of indeterminate color appeared and the lack of bell-ringing indicated that the morning's ballotting was inconclusive.[26] Press speculation held that "a pope who was elected tonight at the fourth-fifth ballot or tomorrow morning at the sixth-seventh would still be a pontiff elected promptly. Beyond that perhaps some problems might arise."[26]

By this point, Cardinal Ratzinger had emerged as a strong contender for the papacy, and recounted in an April 2005 audience to German pilgrims that he felt as though he was beneath the metaphorical axe of papal election, and his head began to spin. However, a fellow cardinal, later revealed to be Christoph Schönborn, encouraged Ratzinger, reminding him of his quotation of the Calling of Matthew in his funeral homily for John Paul II and applying it to Ratzinger.[27][28]

The results of the fourth ballot, according to the anonymous cardinal's diary, were:[23]

Election results[edit]

Given that Ratzinger, Dean of the College, was elected pope, Angelo Sodano as the vice-dean performed the dean's role and asked Ratzinger if he would accept the election and what name he would adopt.[29]

As the voting slips and notes were burnt after that ballot, "All of a sudden, the whole Sistine Chapel was filled with smoke", according to Adrianus Johannes Simonis.[30] Christoph Schönborn joked: "Fortunately, there were no art historians present."

At 15:50 UTC, white smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel. The bells of St. Peter's pealed at about 16:10 UTC.[29][e]

At 16:43 UTC, Cardinal Protodeacon, Jorge Medina, emerged on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and announced the election of Cardinal Ratzinger and that he had chosen the name Benedict XVI.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Paul II had appointed one cardinal secretly (in pectore) in 2003, but never revealed that person's identity.[4]
  2. ^ Some reports said Cardinal Sin had hoped for medical clearance to travel. He died in June.[7]
  3. ^ The 1903 conclave had only one elector with previous conclave experience[9] and the 1823 conclave only two,[citation needed] a function of the age at which cardinals are appointed and the length of a pontificate. The 1878 conclave had three cardinals who had participated in the 1846 conclave.[9]
  4. ^ According to Italian newspapers, Ratzinger had reached or exceeded the required 77 votes on the third ballot, but asked for a vote of confirmation in the afternoon.[citation needed] One account of the election of John Paul I says he did this in 1978.[25] According to some interpretations this would not be in conformity with the laws governing the conclave.
  5. ^ The Apostolic Constitution promulgated by John Paul II mandated that the bells of St. Peter's ring following the election of a new pope to avoid the confusion that ensued at the 1978 conclave when the color of the smoke following the successful election of John Paul II was ambiguous. Archbishop Renato Boccardo, the Vatican City Secretary-General, said the Vatican official inside the conclave responsible for activating the bells failed to transfer the keys to the ringing mechanism to the appropriate person at St. Peter's Basilica in a timely fashion.[25]


  1. ^ a b Pope John Paul II (22 February 1996). "Universi Dominici Gregis". The Holy See. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  2. ^ Pham, John-Peter (2004). Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession. Oxford University Press. p. 125. ISBN 9780195346350. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  3. ^ "The restoration of the Pauline Chapel". Vatican Museums. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  4. ^ Boudreaux, Richard (7 April 2005). "Mystery Cardinal Will Never Be Able to Join Peers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Les cardinaux décident le silence média". Le Nouvel Observateur (in French). 22 April 2005. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  6. ^ Collins, Paul (2005). God's New Man: The Election of Benedict XVI and the Legacy of John Paul II. Continuum. p. 128. ISBN 9780826480156. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  7. ^ O'Donnell, Michelle (21 June 2005). "Cardinal Jaime Sin, a Champion of the Poor in the Philippines, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b Politi, Marco (10 April 2015). "La mossa di Ratzinger per il silenzio dei cardinali". La Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  9. ^ a b Baumgartner, Frederic J. (2003). Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 195–196, 201. ISBN 9780312294632.
  10. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (9 April 2005). "A Time for Mourning, but Also for Study and Very Quiet Politics". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b Kaiser, Robert Blair (2006). A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 201, 208–210.
  12. ^ "Lasciate parlare i cardinali" [Let the cardinals speak]. La Repubblica (in Italian). 12 April 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b Allen Jr., John L. (13 April 2005). "Two conclave preachers are open, ecumenical". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  14. ^ a b Walsh, Mary Ann (2005). From Pope John Paul II to Benedict XVI. Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 52–53, 93. ISBN 9781580512022. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Notificazione: Giuramento degli Officiali e degli Addetti al Conclave" (Press release) (in Italian). Ufficio delle Celebrazioni Liturgiche del Sommo Pontefice. 7 April 2005. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Solemn Eucharistic celebration with the Votive Mass "Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice": Announcement" (in Italian). Vatican.va. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Homily of His Eminence Card. Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals (English version)". Vatican.va. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  18. ^ Kaiser, Robert Blair (2006). A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future. Knopf. ISBN 9780307424280. Retrieved 23 August 2017. Ratzinger could have delegated anyone to give the homily, but he delivered it himself.
  19. ^ "Notificazione: Ingresso in Conclave" [Notice: Entrance into Conclave] (in Italian). Vatican.va. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  20. ^ Frattini, Eric (2008). L'entità (in Italian). Fazi Editore. ISBN 9788864113456. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  21. ^ Brunelli, Lucio (23 September 2005). "I segreti del Conclave "Così vinse Ratzinger"" (in Italian). Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  22. ^ Tornielli, Andrea (27 July 2011). "Il diario segreto dell'ultimo conclave". La Stampa (in Italian). Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b c d "Cardinal Spills Secrets from Conclave". Fox News. Associated Press. 23 September 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  24. ^ "Conclave, nera la prima fumata grande delusione tra i fedeli". La Repubblica (in Italian). 18 April 2005. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  25. ^ a b Burke-Young, Francis A. (2001). "Passing the Keys: Modern Cardinals, Conclaves, and the Election of the Next Pope". Madison Books.[page needed]
  26. ^ a b "Conclave, terzo scrutinio, fumata nera; In difficoltà il favorito Ratzinger?". La Repubblica (in Italian). 19 April 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  27. ^ "To the German pilgrims gathered in Rome for the inauguration ceremony of the Pontificate (April 25, 2005) | BENEDICT XVI". www.vatican.va. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  28. ^ "Cardinal Schönborn Calls Archbishop Gänswein Book 'Unseemly Indiscretion,' Confirms Key Detail of Benedict Papacy". NCR. 18 January 2023. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  29. ^ a b c Allen Jr., John L. (2005). The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church. Doubleday. pp. 116–118. ISBN 9780307424105. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  30. ^ "Un cardinale racconta Problemi con le fumate". La Repubblica (in Italian). 21 April 2005. Retrieved 25 August 2017.

External links[edit]