What is the Papal Conclave?

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Papal Conclave

With the retirement of Pope Benedict last week, the internet has been buzzing about the process for selecting the new Pope known as the “Papal Conclave.” But what exactly is the Papal Conclave? It just seems like two big words put together, doesn’t it? But whether you’re Catholic or not, any time a new Pope is being selected turns into big news that the media feasts on relentlessly. In short: the Papal Conclave is when the College of Cardinals gathers in a location and selects a new Pope. You may be familiar with the little hut that smoke comes out of it that signals a Pope has been selected. But did you know these other facts?

  • The longest Papal Conclave occurred in the year 1268 and last almost three years. Pope Gregory X was finally elected pope after the Cardinals took their sweet time to figure it out.
  • The shortest Papal Conclave occurred in 1503 when Pope Julius II was elected in just a few hours. Time flies when you’re…selecting a new pope?
  • The youngest pope ever elected was Pope John XII in 955 at the age of 18. 18!
  • The oldest popes elected were Celestine III in 1294 and Benedict XVI, the most recent pope, who were both 85.
  • Most of the popes throughout history have been Italian. Notable exceptions include Pope John Paul II (Polish) and Pope Benedict XVI (German). There have also been popes from Spain, the Netherlands, and Syria.

Don’t worry if the whole Papal Conclave is still over your head—we don’t really get it either. We hope you found this list at least a little interesting while you’re trying to navigate the world of the new Pope.

Photo by Nacho Arteaga on Unsplash

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