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Mike Humphrey wrote:

Hi, Fr. Francis —

  • I was listening to Fox News great coverage of the death of John Paul II, and one commentator said that once they choose the next pope [by two-thirds of the cardinals voting (pro: for a certain cardinal) + 1], he can refuse the election; is this true?

If so, then it appears you could have a situation, theoretically, where cardinals are elevated to the papacy, but keep refusing the job.

  • Could this situation occur?


  { Could a nominee to the papacy keep refusing effectively elevating the cardinals to the papacy? }

Fr. Francis replied:

Hi, Mike —

The election is not the only facet of the election of the Pope. The cardinal in charge comes after the votes are tallied in favor of a candidate, and he asks the candidate:

  • "Do you accept?"

We will never know just how many cardinals have said "no", for whatever reason. A longer conclave does not necessarily mean they could not arrive at a candidate. Perhaps one or two or more said "no".

  • Would you want someone unwilling to be our Chief-Shepherd?
  • Or is it that you can't even imagine having a choice (no sarcasm here)?

Remember Constantinople III. There was not just one will in Christ — the Divine Will. The truth is that there are two Wills in Christ, one Divine and one Human. He "shares" the one Divine Will in the Trinity but His human Will had to conform to this Divine Will, i.e. "Nevertheless not My will but Thine be done".

"Do you accept?", the candidate is asked.

He is not Pope until he accepts. Then he is asked:

"What name do you take?"

Simple, but profound!

Pope John Paul the Great, pray for us.

Father Francis

Mike replied:

Hi, Fr. Francis —

I understand your answer but, theoretically, if the conclave gets to day 20 and no candidate has reached the [two-thirds + 1] votes needed, or has not accepted the papacy, what happens?

  • Is the "20-days" fixed, or not?


Richard replied:

Hi, Mike —

The requirement for a two-thirds majority is dropped after the "20-day" period, and a simple majority of cardinals can elect the new Pope.  It's all spelled out in the Apostolic Constitution below.

See paragraph 75.

75. If the balloting does not result in an election, even after the provisions of No. 74 have been fulfilled, the Cardinal electors shall be invited by the Camerlengo to express an opinion about the manner of proceeding. The election will then proceed in accordance with what the absolute majority of the electors decides.

Nevertheless, there can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by an absolute majority of the votes or else by voting only on the two names which in the ballot immediately preceding have received the greatest number of votes; also in this second case only an absolute majority is required.

— RC

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