Cardinals Set April 18 for Papal Conclave

The College of Cardinals will meet April 18 to begin the process of choosing a new pope.

Cardinals Set Date for Secret Papal Vote (AP)

The College of Cardinals on Wednesday set April 18 as the date for the historic start of the conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, as the Vatican made final arrangements for the funeral expected to draw millions of pilgrims and world leaders to Rome. The decision came after the cardinals read John Paul’s spiritual testament during a pre-conclave meeting Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, adding that the text would be released on Thursday.

Navarro-Valls said cardinals would celebrate a morning Mass on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon to start the conclave. According to church law, prelates are expected to hold one ballot on the first day of a conclave.

One wonders why they wait so long. While I can understand not wanting to upstage the ceremonies honoring the old pope, choosing a successor quickly strikes me as advantageous.

In a major change to a centuries-old practice of electing a new pope, the Vatican has said it planned to ring bells in addition to sending up white smoke to announce that a new pope has been chosen. Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no decision has been made after a papal ballot, while white smoke means a pope has been elected. In the past, it has sometimes been hard to tell whether the smoke from the Vatican chimney was white or black. “This time we plan to ring the bells to make the election of the pope clearer,” Archbishop Piero Marini said Tuesday.

In another change from past papal elections, cardinals voting in the conclave will have access to all of Vatican City during the election, as opposed to being sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, Marini said.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. kappiy says:

    I can’t believe that the Cards are amending the exhalted tradition of white/black smoke. The next thing you know, they’ll be ordaining women priests! Radicals!

  2. McGehee says:

    Not only is it sometimes hard to tell white smoke from black smoke, sometimes it’s hard to tell sarcasm from mere cluelessness.

  3. Kathy Caudle says:

    Ya know, some things are better left alone. The Papal conclave is one of those few areas of life that should not be tampered with.

    This is a centuries-old ritual, and one the world anticipates after the passing of a pontiff, so therefore should be respected. My attitude almost is that of “Oh, no, here we go again!” It’s going to be more poking jokes at Catholics, of which I AM one, and criticizing the Church in its many facets.

    If you’re jealous or it bothers you about the Papal conclave and the election of the next pope, or anything of the Holy Roman Church, then become Catholic. There’s deep spiritual tradition in the Roman Church, alongside all the ceremony and rituals, where one CAN find him or herself spiritually if that’s what you seek.

    Kathy Caudle
    Salt Lake City, Utah