A term referring either to the locked place within which a papal election occurs or to the assembly of cardinals who carry out the election. Conclaves originated in 1274 in Gregory X's attempt to ensure that cardinals avoided delay in choosing a pope. They are regulated by the constitution Universi dominici gregis of John Paul II. The camerlengo, assisted by one cardinal bishop, one cardinal priest, and one cardinal deacon, controls the conclave, which takes place in a sealed-off portion of the Vatican palace. It meets 15 days (if necessary a five-day extension may be allowed) after the pope's death. The election is by secret ballot. Each cardinal writes only the name of the candidate of his choice on the ballot paper, which he places in a chalice on the altar of the Sistine Chapel, where the voting takes place. A vote takes two to three hours. If the first vote is inconclusive, another vote immediately follows; there are two each morning and each evening, the ballot papers being burned after every second vote. An election occurs when a candidate receives two-thirds of the total votes or two-thirds plus one when the total votes are not divisible by three. All cardinals must vote at each ballot. No contact with the outside world is allowed during the conclave; all audiovisual equipment is banned, and any notes concerning the election must be placed in the papal archives. The elected candidate closes the conclave by receiving the homage of the individual cardinals.
See Also: popes, election of.
Bibliography: john paul ii, "Universi dominici gregis" (apostolic constitution, Feb. 22, 1996), Acta Apostolicae Sedis 88 (1996) 305–343.
con·clave / ˈkänˌklāv/ • n. a private meeting. ∎ (in the Roman Catholic Church) the assembly of cardinals for the election of a pope. ∎ the meeting place for such an assembly.