Conclave 101: How a pope is elected

The written rules for the conclave, which have developed in reaction to the problems — political and moral — that have arisen throughout history, are “rigid and highly formal,” the bishop said.

For example, he said, Pope Paul VI’s rules excluded cardinals who were 80 years old or older on the day the conclave began. Blessed John Paul changed the rule to 80 years on the day the papacy became vacant. The change ensured cardinals did not choose a conclave start date specifically to include or exclude a cardinal close to the age of 80.

Under current rules, only cardinals who are under the age of 80 Feb. 28, the last day of Pope Benedict’s pontificate — can vote in the conclave. There were 117 cardinals eligible, but Feb. 21 Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, the 78-year-old retired archbishop of Jakarta, announced he would not travel to Rome because of his health.

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