Papal Conclave To Begin March 12th

Vatican officials announced today that the Conclave to select a successor to Benedict XVI will being next Tuesday:

The Vatican said Friday that cardinals gathered in Rome to elect a new pope would begin the actual election process, known as the papal conclave, Tuesday.

It has been widely reported that divisions among the cardinals over how much time they need to deliberate the various challenges facing the Catholic Church have delayed the pre-conclave meetings.

Reporter Marco Tosatti, who writes for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, told the Church’s Rome-based bureaucracy, the “Curia,” probably preferred an earlier date, hoping to quickly “orient” the prelates from more distant nations “towards a chosen candidate.”

He said the cardinals who came from powerful Bishops’ conferences — such as those from the United States, for instance — likely preferred to delay the beginning of the conclave, to grant them more time “to campaign” their colleagues who came from more remote locations, countries in Latin America and Africa, for instance.

Ed Morrissey, who is in Rome to cover the Conclave, makes these observations:

At least in the press office, I was literally the first person to be handed the announcement.  I happened to wander over to the information table when a messenger handed me the bulletin and said something including, “Prima.” I asked a press office official to help me translate, and she informed me that I had the news first — and that I’d better do something with it, fast.

A Tuesday start to the conclave works almost perfectly in terms of the general concerns over the pastoral and liturgical schedule.  While it’s not a necessity for an election to take place by the 17th, it would make the logistics work better for Holy Week preparations.  Furthermore, setting the date for four days hence makes it appear that the cardinals anticipate having had plenty of time to discuss their broad concerns — and perhaps have a good idea on a short list of potential successor to Benedict XVI and St. Peter.

Theoretically, of course, a Conclave will last as long as it takes for the Cardinals to reach the 2/3 majority required to elect a Pope. Recent history, however, has seen rather short conclaves. The Conclave that elected Benedict took two days and four ballots, for example, while the one that elected John Paul II in 1978 took 8 ballots over a period of three days.  Indeed, no Conclave has lasted more than three days since the 1922 Conclave that elected Pius XI. This strongly suggests we’ll have a new Pope by this time next week.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. BIll says:

    My wife does our parish bulletin. She hopes the conclave is over by Wednesday afternoon. That’s when the deadline is for the March 16-17 cover.

  2. It’s entirely possible it will be. Benedict’s was over very quickly. Of course, by the time it had started the conventional wisdom was that Cardinal Ratzinger was the natural successor to John Paul II. Things are a little bit different this time.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    The should televise it and use the NCAA Bracket Selection process as the model.

    I’m going with an American Cardinal as a 4 seed, a Nigerian Cardinal as a 3 seed, an Italian Cardinal as 1 seed, a Brazilian Cardinal as a 2 Seed, and a German Cardinal as a 16 seed. Netherlands and Poland are seeded 12 and 10 respectively.

    The whole conclave can be sponsored by Cialis.