The day on which
the Conclave begins is ordinarily to be the fifteenth day after
the death of a Pope, the 16th day of the Interregnum. However, the
College of Cardinals is given the faculty by Universi Dominici
Gregis to defer its beginning "for serious reasons" up to the
20th day after death (21st day of the Vacancy). It must begin on
or before that day.
On the morning of the first day on which the
Conclave is to begin, the Cardinal Electors gather in St. Peter’s
Basilica, or another place as may be determined by the College, to
celebrate a Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope.
In the afternoon they gather in the Pauline Chapel
of the Apostolic Palace. Invoking the assistance of the Holy Spirit
with the Veni Creator Spiritu, they process to the Sistine
Chapel. (For the Conclave of April 2005, they processed from the Hall of
Benediction instead, owing to renovations in progress in the Pauline
Chapel.) Having arrived at the Sistine Chapel, they make a solemn oath in
Latin to observe the prescriptions
of the law governing the election, to observe the secrecy obliged,
and to not assist any secular power which may try to influence the
election. They also swear that if elected they will faithfully carry
out the Petrine Office, and protect the spiritual and temporal
rights of the Holy See. In April 2005 the Cardinals permitted the procession
and oath to be carried by television and radio.
After the last Cardinal Elector has taken the oath,
the Master of Papal Liturgical Ceremonies gives the order Extra
omnes, commanding everyone not authorized to remain in the
Conclave to leave the Chapel. Besides the Electors, only the Master
of Papal Liturgical Ceremonies and the ecclesiastic chosen
beforehand to give a meditation to the Cardinals on the seriousness
of their duties, remains. When the meditation has been concluded,
both of these men depart the Sistine Chapel.
After the Cardinals recite prayers provided in the
proper Ordo for the Conclave, the Cardinal Dean inquiries if any
Electors have questions concerning the norms and procedures. Once
these have been clarified, by a majority decision of the Cardinals
the election can proceed.
Only the Cardinal Electors may remain in the Sistine
Chapel during the actual voting, which by law is from after the
ballots have been distributed until after they have been tabulated
and checked. Outside of the time of actual voting, the Secretary of
the College, the Master of Papal Liturgical Ceremonies and the 2
Masters of Ceremonies are present to assist the Conclave.
On this first day of the Conclave, only one ballot
is permitted. On the other days of the Conclave, two ballots are
permitted in the morning session and two are permitted in the