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Papal conclave, 1963

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Title: Papal conclave, 1963  
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Subject: Papal conclave, Papabile, Giuseppe Pizzardo, Giuseppe Siri, List of papal elections
Collection: 1963 Elections, 1963 Elections in Europe, 1963 in Religion, 20Th-Century Roman Catholicism, Papal Conclaves
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Papal conclave, 1963

Papal conclave
June 1963
Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
Dates and location
19–21 June 1963
Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace,
Vatican City
Key officials
Dean Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant
Sub-Dean Clemente Micara
Camerlengo Benedetto Aloisi Masella
Protodeacon Alfredo Ottaviani
Ballots 6
Elected Pope
Giovanni Battista Montini
(Name taken: Paul VI)

The Papal conclave of 1963 was convoked following the death of Pope John XXIII on 3 June that year in the Apostolic Palace. After the cardinal electors assembled in Rome, the conclave to elect John's successor began on 19 June and ended two days later, on 21 June, after six ballots. The cardinals elected Giovanni Battista Montini, then Archbishop of Milan, as the new pope. He accepted the election and took the pontifical name of Paul VI.


  • Background 1
  • Election 2
  • See Also 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5


John XXIII's death left the future of the Second Vatican Council in the balance, as the election of an anti-Council pope could have severely curbed the Council's role. The leading papabile candidates were Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan, who had not yet been Cardinal at the time of the previous conclave, and was supportive of reforms proposed at the Council; Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna, who was considered a liberal, close to the previous pope, John XXIII; and Giuseppe Siri of Genoa, papabile in 1958 and critical of these reforms. Reportedly, John XXIII had sent oblique signals indicating that he thought Montini would make a fine pope.


Day Ballot Result
1 1 No pope elected
2 2
3 6 Pope elected

The 1963 conclave, which was held from 19 to 21 June, at the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, was the largest ever assembled until that time. There were eighty-two cardinals, but owing to his house arrest, József Mindszenty could not travel to Rome, while Carlos María de la Torre did not participate owing to his advanced age and chronic health problems. Of the eighty cardinals who did participate, eight had been elevated by Pope Pius XI, twenty-seven by Pius XII, and the remainder by John XXIII. Each cardinal elector was allowed one aide.

About the earlier ballots, various rumours persist: some allege that reform-minded cardinals initially voted for Leo Joseph Suenens of Mechelen-Brussels and Franz König of Vienna, to remind the electors that the pope does not have to be Italian, while others report that conservative cardinals attempted to block Montini's election in the early balloting. Due to the apparent deadlock, Cardinal Montini proposed to withdraw himself from being considered but was silenced by Giovanni Urbani the Patriarch of Venice.[1] Another cardinal, Gustavo Testa, an old friend of John XXIII, lost his temper in the Chapel and demanded that the intransigents stop impeding Montini’s path.[2] In a version of the Siri Thesis, some claim that Cardinal Siri received the two-thirds required for a valid election but eventually refused the office, allegedly under pressure. When asked two decades later whether in both the 1958 and 1963 conclaves he had initially been elected as pontiff, Siri is reported by Louis Hubert Remy to have responded "I am bound by the secret. This secret is horrible. I would have books to write about the different conclaves. Very serious things have taken place. But I can say nothing." However, in public Siri fully submitted to the authority of all subsequent popes in his lifetime: John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II. Cardinal Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian the former Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia was also speculated to be papabile at the conclave[3] and according to the Armenian Catholic Church website, was also rumored to have been elected at that conclave but declined to accept.[4]

The favourite candidate, Giovanni Battista Montini, was elected after only six ballots. By the fourth ballot on 20 June, according to Time Magazine, the Milanese archbishop only needed four additional votes to obtain the required number of votes. When officially asked by Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant if he accepted his election, Montini replied, Accepto, in nomine Domini ("I accept, in the name of the Lord") and chose to be known as Pope Paul VI.

At 11:22 am, white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, signifying the successful election of a new pope. Alfredo Ottaviani, in his capacity as the senior Cardinal Deacon, announced Montini's election in the traditional Latin; before Ottaviani had even finished saying Montini's name, the crowd beneath the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica erupted into applause. The following is a transcription of the Habemus Papam announcement as delivered by Cardinal Ottaviani.

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam;
Eminentissimum et reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Ioannem Baptistam Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem Montini,
Qui sibi nomen imposuit Paulum sextum.[5][6]

Which, translated into English, can be read as follows:

I announce to you a great joy
We have a Pope:
The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lord
Lord Giovanni Battista Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Montini,
Who takes to himself the name Paul VI.

(Note: Cardinal Ottaviani used the word "et" instead of "ac" the word usually used for "and" in the Habemus Papam formula itself).[5][6]

Pope Paul VI shortly afterwards appeared on the balcony to give his first blessing. On this occasion, Pope Paul VI chose not to give the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing but instead imparted the shorter episcopal blessing as his first Apostolic Blessing. The following is the text of the blessing as delivered by Pope Paul VI with the responses given by the others present:

Sit nomen Domini benedictum.

Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini
  • Respondeat: Qui fecit cælum et terram.
Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus,
Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus..
  • Respondeat: Amen.[5]

Which translated into English means as follows:

Blessed be the name of the Lord
R: Both here now and in the ages
Our help is in the name of the Lord
R: Who made heaven and earth.
May Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you.
R: Amen

After the Pope imparted the blessing, a plenary indulgence attached to the blessing just given was proclaimed.[5]

Duration 3 days
Number of ballots 6
Electors 82
Present 80
Absent 2
Africa 1
Latin America 11
North America 7
Asia 5
Europe 55
Oceania 1
Italians 29
NEW POPE PAUL VI (1963–1978)

See Also

Cardinal electors for the papal conclave, 1963


  1. ^ Pham, John-Peter. "Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession". Oxford University Press, 2007
  2. ^ Weigel, George (21 April 2005). "Conclaves: Surprises abound in the Sistine Chapel". The Madison Catholic Herald Online. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Conclave A.D. 1963 - Election of Pope Paul VI. YouTube video. Accessed 19 October 2013
  4. ^ "Biography of Gregory Petros XV Agagianian". Armenian Catholic Church. 
  5. ^ a b c d elezione Papa Paolo VI (1963) . YouTube. Accessed on 22 December 2012.
  6. ^ a b Un'opera che continua Edizione straordinaria. YouTube. Accessed on 16 March 2012.


  • Martin, Malachi (1991). The Keys of this Blood. New York: Touchstone. pp. 607–608.  
  • . Translated into English by Heidi Hagen for "The Sangre de Cristo Newsnotes" – No. 55 – December 1987.  
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