Cracking the Conclave Code: Unraveling the Mysteries of Papal Elections

Adam J. R. Brickley


As the leader of the world’s Catholics, the pope is one of the most powerful men in the world. However, the conclaves in which popes are elected remain poorly understood by the general public and the political science community. Hence, most attempts to predict their outcomes fail. This paper identifies key dynamics of these elections in order to make it possible to predict their results. A historical analysis of recent conclaves is used to determine whether conclaves produce results according to discernable patterns, and an in-depth analysis of the 2005 conclave will reveal the political dynamics within the College of Cardinals. Results indicate that it is possible to make several concrete predictions about the outcomes of future conclaves. While it may be impossible to determine the next pope’s exact identity, this study shows that it may be possible to determine his age, region of origin, and ideology.

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