Papal Conclave

Prior to formation of the College of Cardinals in 1059 AD, the Pope was chosen through consensus of the clergy and laity of the diocese. But then in 1059, the College of Cardinals was precisely formed as the sole body of electors responsible for the election of the Bishop of Rome (Pope).

In subsequent years, concerns were raised over political interference of the electoral process. In 1274 Pope Gregory X decreed that the Cardinal Electors should be locked in seclusion cum clave (Latin for with Key) and not authorized to leave until they have elected a new pope. Since then, other details of the process have been refined. Like for instance, Pope Paul VI in 1970 reduced the age of eligible electoral cardinals to 80 years of age.

During the conclave, cardinals are restricted from communicating with the outside world. They are confined in a two room suite within the Vatican; they then take an oath of secrecy over the proceedings. After each vote, either white or black smoke signals emanate from the Vatican to signify whether the Pope has been elected or not. The black smoke signifies no one has been elected whereas a white smoke means a new Pope has been elected.

Bishops in the Catholic Church belong to the college of bishops which is basically a convention of bishops from all over the world. The College of Bishops together with the Pope as their head have full authority over the entire church. The Catholic Church adherents believe that the Holy Spirit is with the Pope and with the entire College of Bishops as leaders of the Church and works through them to help them proclaim and teach the Gospel.

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