12 March 2013 by Rev Dr Steven Kau – 


The papal conclave is the gathering of the College of Cardinals to choose a new Pope for the Roman Catholic Church. The College of Cardinals is the collective body of all cardinals around the world. In order to prevent political interference, deadlocks and intrigue, qualifying cardinal are secluded in an area of the Vatican consisting of the Sistine Chapel (where the voting takes place) and dormitory-style housing. The cardinals are to remain until a new Pope is chosen. If a cardinal leaves for other than health reasons, he is not allowed re-entry.


The procedure for the papal conclave is fairly basic. After hearing sermons on the state of the Roman Catholic Church and the rules of the conclave, the cardinals vote up to four times a day with secret ballots. The ballots are counted, read, recorded and burned. A Pope must be chosen by a two-thirds vote. If the count does not result in an election, chemicals are added to the burning ballots to turn the smoke dark; if it does result in an election, the smoke is colored white and bells ring. Every three days or seven votes, the conclave takes a break for prayer and contemplation.

Devout Catholics gather in St. Peter’s Square to watch the chimney on the Sistine Chapel. When the smoke turns white, the Pope-elect takes a vow of office and dons the papal vestments. He then greets the people in the square from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.


It is tradition that the office of Pope is not campaigned for. Any baptized Catholic man can be elected Pope, although the last non-priest elected was Leo X in 1513 and every Pope since then has been chosen from among the cardinals. Any who do not wish to be considered, make their wishes known beforehand. The office is considered to be a lifetime appointment. Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.


Some question if the idea and procedure of the papal conclave is biblical? Of course it is not. The office of Pope is peculiar only to the Roman Catholic Church and is not found in the Bible. We hold to the biblical truth that Jesus Christ is Head of the Church. (Colossians 1:18) The Holy Spirit is the true “Vicar of Christ.” (John 14:16-18, 26; 16:13)

Still we pray and hope that the new Pope will bring changes consistent with the Bible for all Catholics and Christians in general.


Rev. Dr. Steven Kau is the pastor of Faith Covenant Church. The church address is at 1-1 Jalan Putra Mahkota 7/5B, 47650 Putra Heights, Subang Jaya, Selangor. Sunday service in English starts at 10 am. His email contact –    kausteven@gmail.com


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