Wednesday, February 13, 2013

That's one tough vacancy to fill

I found this story of how Pope Gregory X was chosen to be absolutely fascinating. Here's a snippet to get you started:

[T]he humble city of Viterbo, sixty miles north of Rome, know popes were not always elected in Rome. Sheepishly, perhaps, they know that current tradition of strictly-ruled elections was caused by a particularly inefficient election that they hosted.


When Pope Clement IV died in Viterbo in 1268, cardinals gathered there to elect his successor. A two-thirds vote was needed, but very hard to get. At first, the Viterbese were proud to host the election. Cardinals stayed all over the city and gathered once a day to vote. It was exciting to have the dignitaries in their midst. However, day after day, week after week, no settlement was made between two competing interests. This took its toll on the local population who were hosting and feeding these guests and their entourages.

Weeks turned into months, so to hasten the process, the cardinals were pushed to move into the Papal Palace and forced to work together behind locked doors (cum clave—"locked up"—where we get the term "conclave"). When that didn't work, the Viterbese reduced the food and wine supplies to the palace, hoping to create a less hospitable environment.

Read the whole story here.

Next time I think our religious committee is slow at coming to consensus, I'll think back to this story.

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