How do cardinals communicate during a conclave?

Cardinals are not permitted to communicate with anyone outside the election area during a papal conclave. They may not

  • use social media
  • make phone calls
  • mail or receive letters
  • watch television
  • listen to the radio
  • read newspapers
  • make video, tape or electronic recordings of the conclave

The conclave takes place in the Sistine Chapel, which will be inspected for hidden cameras and other recording devices before the conclave begins. Any notes that are taken by the Cardinals during the conclave will be burned along with the ballots.

In 1996, Blessed Pope John Paul II issued a document, Universi Dominici Gregis, that established new rules for the conclave. It emphasized “the duty of maintaining the strictest secrecy with regard to everything that directly or indirectly concerns the election process itself.”

Each Cardinal will make the following pledge:

We, the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, of the Order of Bishops, of Priests and of Deacons, promise, pledge and swear, as a body and individually, to observe exactly and faithfully all the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, and to maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.

Next, each Cardinal shall add: And I, N. Cardinal N., so promise, pledge and swear. And, placing his hand on the Gospels, he will add: So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I now touch with my hand.

Chapter II, Article 44 of Universi Dominici Gregis explains that the Cardinal electors may not communicate “by writing, telephone or any other means of communication” with anyone outside the election area unless there is proven and urgent necessity, until the election is concluded and a public announcement of the result has been made.



For More Information:

Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, February 15, 2013. "Conclave to silence at least nine tweeting cardinals." Article includes a list of cardinals who tweet.

Universi Dominici Gregis (English translation). Blessed Pope John Paul II's 1996 document establishing new rules for conclave procedures.

John Thavis, Catholic News Service, 2005. "In '96 conclave rules, Pope John Paul II emphasized secrecy." Includes information about post-1965 secrecy precautions.

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