Papal conclave: Voting schedule

2013-03-12 14:02

Vatican City — The conclave to elect a new pope begins on Tuesday at the Vatican. The voting process follows a set ritual every day until the Catholic Church has a new leader. Here is an approximate schedule. South African time listed first, Vatican City time in brackets.


— SA time 11:00 – 12:45 (Local time 10:00 - 11:45): Cardinals attend Mass in St Peter's Basilica, then return to their Vatican hotel.

— SA time 16:45 (Local time 15:45): Cardinals travel from their hotel to the Apostolic Palace.

— SA time 17:30 (Local time 16:30): Procession from the Pauline Chapel into the Sistine Chapel.

— SA time 17:45 – 21:00 (Local time 16:45 – 20:00): Each cardinal takes an oath, most likely followed by the first vote. If the vote yields a new pope, white smoke will emerge from the chimney; if not the smoke will be black.

— SA time 21:00 (Local time 20:00): Cardinals pray in the Sistine Chapel.

— SA time 21:30 (Local time 20:30): Cardinals return to their hotel.

Wednesday and onward

— SA time 08:45 (Local time 07:45): Cardinals travel to the Pauline Chapel.

— SA time 09:15 (Local time 08:15): Mass in the Pauline Chapel.

— SA time 10:30 (Local time 09:30): Prayer in the Sistine Chapel, voting starts.

— SA time 13:30 (Local time 12:30): Cardinals retire to their hotel for lunch.

— SA time 17:00 (Local time 16:00): Cardinals return to the Sistine Chapel.

— SA time 17:50 (Local time 16:50): Voting in the Sistine Chapel.

— SA time 20:15 (Local time 19:15): Prayer in the Sistine Chapel.

— SA time 20:30 (Local time 19:30): Cardinals return to their hotel.


After every three full days of voting, the cardinals break for a day of prayer and reflection, then resume for another three days. The first pause will be on Saturday if no pope has been selected before that.

The smoke

Smoke will emerge from the chimney once at the end of the morning session — at about 13:00 SA time (midday local time) — and again at the end of the afternoon session — about 20:00 SA time (19:00 local time). But if an earlier vote yields a pope, white smoke would emerge at that time, ending the conclave.

Once white smoke emerges from the chimney, a bell at the St Peter's Basilica rings. Within an hour, the man who was selected emerges onto the balcony and his identity is known.

  • Christo van der Merwe - 2013-03-12 15:56

    Since I'm not a Catholic, I find this very interesting!

  • Tom Walsh - 2013-03-12 16:45

    “The Papal conclave should be very interesting. It looks like the top two candidates are Scola (Italy) and Scherer (Brazil). The reform faction of Cardinals is looking for Scola to lead them while the Curia faction of Cardinals wants Scherer to be Pope. Look for the first few days of the conclave to be a battle between the top two guys. Scola has a solid bloc of votes in Europe. But it also appears that some American and Asian Cardinals are supporting Scola. If this is true we could have white smoke by the end of the second day. Scherer has solid support from the Curia wing of Cardinals. Scherer supporters are looking to get strong support during the first few votes, in hopes that other Cardinals will jump on the band wagon at the close of the second day of voting. Cardinal Ouellet (Canada) and Erdo (Hungary) are said to be the compromise candidates to become Pope. If things aren't settled beteween Scola and Scherer after the third day of the conclave, then look for Ouellet or Erdo to emerge as strong contenders from the fourth day on. My gut tells me that Scola has enough votes to become Pope, and this should happen by the end of the second day or start of the third day of voting. But if things drag out longer, we will certainly see a compromise Pope like Ouellet or Erdo emerge.”

  • mj.hauptfleisch - 2013-03-12 18:52

    Last and final test for choosing the new pope: The 10 finalists were lined up in a secret room closeby -- all were without clothes, with a small bell hanging on a string attached you know where. The final count-down! A beautiful lady with very little clothes slowed walks past the line of cardinals. She passed the first one ... the second one ...still, total silence. Now she passing the 9th one, still total silence. As she reached the 10th one, his bell starts ringing ... and ringing ... and finally the bell came loose and roll across the floor. The 10th candidate, red in the face and embarrassed, step out of the line and bent over to pick up his bell. Then all hell broke loose as all the other 9 bells start ringing.

      GB Garratt - 2013-03-12 19:07

      LOL! That about sums them up.

  • - 2013-03-12 19:31

    I never realised there was any option of a hotel etc. Always thought it would be a solemn prayer/fasting/voting ritual until a new pope was chosen.

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