Selecting a new Pope

Can the College of Cardinals select anbody they want ot be the new Pope? Does the new Pope have to be Catholic? Do they have to be a Cardinal?



My “guess” is he’d have to be Catholic. Can’t answer the rest of your question. (I have doubts as to whether I’ve answered part of it) :wink:

In the film “ThE PoPe MuSt DiE!”, Robbie Coltrane was only a normal priest but he was elected Pope by accident.

How a Pope is Elected

No. It must be a man.
Not only Catholic, but a ROMAN Catholic.
No, but he must be a bishop.

Read below.

Who Is Eligible?
According to canon law, the cardinals can elect any baptized Roman Catholic male, with the proviso that the Pope must also be, or become, a priest and a bishop, if he is not one already. (In theory even baptism is not required, provided the man elected is willing to be baptized, ordained a priest, and then consecrated Bishop of Rome.) In practice however, only members of the College of Cardinals are seriously considered by their colleagues, and there are no cardinals under 80 who are not already bishops. In all likelihood, therefore, the next Pope will be chosen from among the assembled cardinals.

From your link it doesn’t look like he has to a Roman Catholic or a bishop to elected, just agree to become a Roman Catholic and a bishop.

Sorry, but the document you cite is wrong. That document is a commentary on the Universi Dominici gregis which lays out all the rules. UDg assumes that the person is already baptized. The document says to ordain the elected pope as a bishop if he’s not a bishop; but it doesn’t say to baptize someone who’s not baptized. Since you can’t ordain an unbaptized person, then baptism is presumed.

Also, the elected Pope does not have to be a Roman Catholic. He can be a Byzantine Catholic or be a member of any one of the Eastern Rite Catholics. Of course, he couldn’t be a member of any of the schismatic Catholic churches.

And I don’t know why you say he must be a bishop, since your quote rightly points out that he doesn’t have to be (when elected), but is ordained one before assuming the office of Pope.

This thread covered these details with supporting documentation.


Hmmm…, the hat does hide my pointy head…

I heard a UL a long time ago that there is a loophole in Vatican law that could hypothetically allow a Jew to become pope. Any truth to that?

No “loophole” needed. A person of any cradle religion can convert and become ordained and be elevated to the papacy. As mentioned before, practical technical and political considerations essentially limit the candidate roster to those who are already a Cardinal.

Nope. The man must be baptized. Since the Cardinals are in seclusion, they can’t ask an unbaptized person to get baptized so that that newly baptized person can be elected as Pope. Therefore, once the Cardinals gather in the conclave, the only electable candidates are baptized Catholic men (of any Rite: Latin, Byzantine, etc…) who have no impediments for episcopal (the adjectival form of ‘bishop’) ordination.


There are no more loopholes, stop looking.

Actually, there’s a real chance the next Pope WILL be Jewish, and no loopholes will be required (google on the name “Lustiger” for details).

IIRC, the last non-Roman Catholic Pope to be elected was Pius XI, a member of the Ambrosian Rite of the Catholic Church, which is practiced predominantly in Milan. Granted, it is a Western Rite, but there are noticeable differences.

Another IIRC, but the Pope need not be a man. From what I understand, the all-male priesthood is tradition, not dogma or doctrine and can be changed, as in the case of celibacy. Assuming they change this at some point (doubtful in our lifetimes) then we could see a legitimate Pope Joan.

Also, I was unaware that Eastern Rite Catholics (Don’t call them Uniates) do not ascend to the papacy in practice but rather to their respective patriarchates. Is this false?

To become Pope, one must be an ordained priest. This is consistent with the information moriah cites.

As for the issue of the Pope being a bishop and a Roman Catholic, some semantic problems are involved.

The information moriah cites says that to be Pope one must become the Bishop of Rome. That is part of the job; the Pope is the Bishop of Rome.

Likewise he has to be a member of what is conventionally known as the Roman Catholic Church. He does not, however, have to be a part of that body or tradition within the Church known as The Latin Rite. He may, for instance, be a Byzantine Catholic or a Ukrainian Catholic, as the Byzantine and Ukrainian Rites are under the administration of the Pope, being part of the same Catholic (that is “universal”) Church. The Latin Rite, far and away, has the most members, and has such dominance in many places–for instance, The United States, that many people, including many Catholics, are unaware that there are other rites included within the denomination.

Of interest here is Baron Corvo’s novel Hadrian VII. In it a Roman Catholic convert is selected for the Papacy as the Cardinals struggle to settle a deadlock in voting, but he first has to receive the ordination for which he studied but which had not been granted him.

There was also a novel within the last couple of years- The Accidental Pope, about an American who left the priesthood after ordination to marry, but was elected Pope. Unrealistic, yes, but it was an interesting read (in the novel, he took the name Peter II, because his work after leaving the priesthood was as a fisherman). I don’t, however, remember who wrote it.

The Accidental Pope
by Raymond Flynn, Robin Moore

The closest a Jewish person will get to the Papacy is if Cardinal Lustiger of Paris (a prominent candidate for next pope) is elected, who was born Jewish but converted. However all the ‘can they believe this, or that’ is covered by the fact that any Pope must be crowned with a ceremony where they swear and affirm various things relating to their beliefs, this will involve reading out the Nicean Creed (look it up), it’s quite specific and relates to what a Catholic must believe, in it there are statement that no Jew, Muslim or Non-Christian could agree with.

Well, he’d be ethnically Jewish, but not religiously, since he’s now a baptized Catholic Christian.

One may argue that he may still be practicing his Judaicism, and he certainly may, since Catholic theology sees Christianity as a fulfillment of Mosaic Law and, certainly, the Apostles continued to practice Judaism after the resurrection.

However, practically, the two religions are seen as distinct religions – you’re one or the other. This is certainly the opinion of almost every Jewish authority which sees profession of Jesus as God made flesh to be heretical.

BTW, in Catholic theology, a Jew does not ‘convert’ to Christianity, since the Mosaic covenant is still valid and Jews worship the same One God as Christians. Only true Pagans (non-baptized non-Jews and non-Muslims) ‘convert’ to Christianity.


Peter’s mighty lonely in the Jewish Pope Club.

Two things:

First, there was one case reported (I don’t have a cite offhand) where the College was having trouble agreeing on a new Pope, and a dove flew in and settled down on the head of a quiet backbencher. The College took this as a sign, and appointed this person, whom no one, including himself, had ever even dreamed would be Pope! Kind of a cool story.

The other was the sudden death of John Paul I, after only a month in office. Upon hearing of his death, a friend of mine observed: “I guess he was the wrong choice!”

To be elected Pope, one must be a baptized Catholic man. Period.

No need to be a priest when elected. If not ordained, then, in the process of becoming Pope, the baptized lay man would receive Holy Orders, all three of them – deacon, priest, and bishop. Then, he would be installed as Pope.

And, at this time in history, a Pope being a woman is right out. Recent documents from Rome have defined authoritatively (although, not officially promulgated as an infallible doctrine – yet) that the teaching that women can not be priests or bishops is based on theological arguments, not simply tradition of discipline (like celibacy). Until a new (male) Pope changes that, there will not be any women priests, bishops, or Popes.

And the story of Pope Joan is an urban legend.


OK, everyone repeat after me: the conditions of being elected Pope are: 1) adult sane male; 2) baptized Catholic [of any Rite in union with Rome]; 3) a bishop, or capable of being ordained a bishop [i.e., no impediments like being schismatic or apostate].

The likelihood that the next elected Pope is not a Cardinal: 1%.

The likelihood that the next elected Pope is not a bishop: .000001%