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Vatican briefs press on urns used for ballots in papal conclave

March 05, 2013

Continuing a series of briefings for reporters on the procedures of a papal conclave, the Vatican press office on March 5 provided some background on the ceremonial urns that are used to collect the ballots of cardinal-electors.

The same urn, or chalice, was used in conclaves for centuries, through the election of Pope John Paul II. After the release of new rules for the conduct of a papal conclave in Universi Dominici Gregis, the Vatican recognized the need for three urns, and commissioned the Italian sculptor Cecco Bonanotte to produce them.

The urns, fashioned of silver and gilded bronze, feature images of the Good Shepherd, grapes, and grain. During an election, each elector places his ballot in one urn. If any cardinal-elector is unable to leave his room because of illness, his ballot is retrieved in a second urn. The third urn is used to collect ballots after a vote, before they are burned to produce the smoke that can be seen by the public in St. Peter’s Square.


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