Papal conclave, October 1978
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Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
|Dates and location|
14–16 October 1978|
Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace,
|Protopriest||Carlos Carmelo de Vasconcelos Motta|
Name taken: John Paul II
The papal conclave of October 1978 was triggered by the death of Pope John Paul I on 28 September just 33 days after his election on 26 August. The conclave to elect John Paul I's successor began on 14 October and ended two days later on 16 October, after eight ballots. The cardinal electors elected Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, Archbishop of Kraków, as the new pope. Resulting in the most recent Year of Three Popes, he accepted his election and took the pontifical name of John Paul II.
Papabili and proceedings
Ten days after the funeral of Pope John Paul I, on 14 October, the doors of the Sistine Chapel were sealed and the conclave commenced. It was divided between two particularly strong candidates for the papacy: Giuseppe Siri, the conservative Archbishop of Genoa, and the liberal Giovanni Benelli, the Archbishop of Florence and a close associate of John Paul I.
Supporters of Benelli were confident that he would be elected. In early ballots, Benelli came within nine votes. But the scale of opposition to both papabili meant that neither was likely to receive the two-thirds plus one needed for election. Among the Italian contingent, Giovanni Colombo was the only viable compromise candidate, but when he started to receive votes, he announced that if elected he would decline to accept the papacy. Cardinal Franz König, the influential and widely respected Archbishop of Vienna, individually suggested to his fellow electors a compromise candidate: the Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła, whom König knew and by whom he was highly impressed.
Also among those cardinals who rallied behind Wojtyła were supporters of Siri, Stefan Wyszyński, most of the American cardinals (led by John Krol), and other moderate cardinals. Wojtyła ultimately defeated Benelli (who was supposedly the candidate Wojtyła himself had voted for) on the eighth ballot on the third day with, according to the Italian press, 99 votes from the 111 participating electors. He accepted his election with these words: "With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept." The Pope, in tribute to his immediate predecessor, then took the name of John Paul II. He became the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Adrian VI, who reigned from 1522 to 1523.
|Rest of Europe||30|
|DECEASED POPE||John Paul I |
|NEW POPE||John Paul II |
At 6:18 p.m. local time (17:18 UTC), the white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, announcing to the public that a new pope had been elected. The senior Cardinal Deacon, Pericle Felici, after quickly checking the correct pronunciation of the new pope's Polish name with Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, gave the traditional Latin announcement of Wojtyła's election from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Dear brothers and sisters, we are still all very saddened by the death of the very dear Pope John Paul I. And now the most eminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a far-away country...far, but always near in the communion of faith and the Christian tradition. I was afraid in receiving this nomination, but I did it in the spirit of obedience to Our Lord and with total trust in his Mother, the Most Holy Madonna. I don't know if I can express myself well in your – in our – Italian language. But if I make a mistake, you will correct me. And so I introduce myself to you all, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, and also to begin again on this path of history and of the Church with the help of God and with that of men.
During the speech, a member of the Roman Curia requested that the new pope end his speech, but the pope ignored the admonition and continued talking. The speech made a good impression on Italian listeners who were nervous at the prospect of a foreign pope. This was due also to an intentional mistake made by the newly elected Pope during this speech, given in Italian language, a mistake that won immediately the applause of the crowd, releasing the tension of the event. John Paul II said (in Italian): "...se mi sbaglio mi corigerete!" (something like: "if I make a mistake, you will corict me!" The correct form would be: "mi correggerete.").
Cardinals ineligible to participate
The rule Paul VI established in Ingravescentem aetatem (1970) and reiterated in Romano Pontifici Eligendo (1975) limited participation in the conclave to cardinals who had yet to reach the age of 80 on the first day of the conclave. The August 1978 conclave was the first in which this rule applied and that of October 1978 the second. The 15 cardinals ineligible to participate in both 1978 conclaves were:
- Carlos Carmelo Vasconcellos Motta, Archbishop of Aparecida
- Josef Frings, Archbishop emeritus of Cologne
- Antonio Caggiano, Archbishop emeritus of Buenos Aires
- James Francis McIntyre, Archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles
- Alfredo Ottaviani, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- Carlo Confalonieri, Dean of the College of Cardinals
- Antonio María Barbieri Archbishop emeritus of Montevideo
- Alberto di Jorio, retired curia official
- Paolo Marella, Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals
- Jozef Slipyj, Archbishop Major of Lviv of the Ukrainians
- Lawrence Joseph Shehan, Archbishop emeritus of Baltimore
- Patrick Aloysius O'Boyle, Archbishop emeritus of Washington
- Pietro Parente, theologian
- Miguel Darío Miranda y Gómez, Archbishop emeritus of Mexico City
- Ferdinando Giuseppe Antonelli, Secretary emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
- Gibson, David (24 December 2015). "Cardinal Donald Wuerl: The pope's man in Washington". Crux. Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- Almade, Frank D. (29 September 2008). "1978: With John Paul II, a new era began for the church". Pittsburgh Catholic Newspaper. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
- Reese, Thomas (1998). Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Harvard University Press. pp. 91, 99. ISBN 978-0-674-93261-6.
- Gallagher, Delia (16 October 2003). "White Smoke Over the Sistine, and Music in St. Peter's". Zenit. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- Catholic-Pages. Pope John Paul II April 2, 2005
- "A "Foreign" Pope". Time. 30 October 1978.
- The first speech of John Paul II on YouTube
- A "Foreign" Pope from Time Magazine, 30 October 1978. (Subscription required.)
- "Exhilarating Roman Experiences of Prof. George Menachery", an Indian journalist's memoir of the conclave