Conclave for Kids!

We are approaching a momentous time in Church history!  Having only had four popes in my lifetime, I only really remember the election of Pope Benedict XVI, as I was a youngster when the others were selected.  What a great time to share with our children!

You have the opportunity now to teach them about the hierarchy of the Church and how the Holy Spirit selects the next leader of His Church on earth.  Here are some ways to explain what is going on and why!

  •  Peter was the first pope of the Catholic Church when Jesus entrusted to him the sheep of his flock saying, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”


  • The Holy Spirit selects the next pope to shepherd the Church by way of a conclave.


  • A conclave is a gathering of cardinals who prayerfully vote to select the next pope.  They meet in the Sistine Chapel.


  • In this, the 75th conclave, 115 cardinals will be voting.  To select a pope, it takes a 2/3 majority vote of the cardinals to elect a new pontiff.  That is 76.7 cardinals!


  • The conclave will begin on Tuesday afternoon and the first vote will be Tuesday evening.


  • If no majority is reached, the secret ballots will be burned and the chimney on the Sistine Chapel will put out black smoke.


  • The proceeding days, 4 votes will be taken (two in the morning and two in the evening) until a majority is reached.  At that time, the ballots will be burned and the chimney will put out white smoke, indicating a pope has been selected!


  • The pope will select his new name, don the appropriate garments, and appear on the balcony in front of St. Peter’s Square.


I hope that you and your children will be watching this conclave closely!  I know that we will be keeping an eye out for the white smoke!!


Fun Facts for your Kids:

The last pope who resigned was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 – before Columbus discovered America!papal symbol

Two cardinals will be celebrating their birthdays during this conclave.

The longest conclave lasted 50 days with 83 ballots in 1830.

The longest reigning pope was our first pope, St. Peter!  He was pope for 35 years!

The cardinals stay in the Santa Martha House during the conclave.

A chimney and stoves for burning ballots are installed in the Sistine Chapel five days before the scheduled conclave.

Swiss guards stand at the doors of the Sistine chapel to prevent anyone from entering.

In past years, a few cardinals have been locked out of the conclave for arriving late.

Conclave means “With a key”.

This is the first conclave in Lent in nearly 200 years.

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