Pope Francis & Papal Election Resources for Schools

HABEMUS PAPEM! These resources can be used with classes to help them learn about how Pope Francis was elected. Included are resources on Pope Francis, a PowerPoint, short video and details about how the Pope is elected. You can click on the words highlighted in red to get a definition of that word. There are also several links to excellent resources available on other sites. These resources have been updated during the Conclave.


Click the word cloud to read Pope Francis' homily from his inauguration Mass

Click on the word cloud above to read Pope Francis’ homily from his inauguration Mass


You can also watch the Pope Francis video here

Pope Francis Classroom Activities click here 

A Prayer of Blessing for Pope Francis and the Universal Church click here

Pope Francis is the 265th since St. Peter. He has a long list of titles, which give a clue to his responsibilities. Below is a list of Pope Francis’ titles: 

  Pope = from ‘Papa’ or ‘Father’.
Bishop of Rome Bishop = a senior priest chosen to look after the clergy and laity of a Diocese (pronounced diosiss) on behalf of the Pope. The Diocese is also known as the See (seat) of a Bishop.
Vicar of Christ Vicar = substitute (Christ’s representative on earth).
Successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles
Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church Pontiff = from the Latin word ‘pons’ meaning ‘bridge’ (between Christ and his people).
Patriarch of the West Patriarch = from the Latin word ‘Patris’ meaning ‘Father’ – his responsibilities extend over a much larger area than a Diocese, sometimes including several countries.
Primate of Italy Primate = the most senior Bishop of a country – usually called Cardinal.
Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome Archbishop = a Bishop who looks after a Diocese or See of special importance.
Metropolitan = like an Archbishop but in the Eastern Catholic Church. Rome is where East and West meet.
Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City Sovereign = Ruler, King, Monarch.
Vatican City = The Vatican City is a country in its own right even though it is very small (about 2km square). In the political world community it operates like any other state.
Servant of the Servants of God


Talking Donkey RE  is an English blog site by Andy Lewis and he has a blog post about Pope Francis and he has also produced this excellent Pope Francis PowerPoint for schools.

Click here for the Pope Francis Lesson Plan from www.thereligionteacher.com

Pope Francis, when cardinal, kissing the feet of a child with AIDS after he had washed his feet.

Pope Francis, when cardinal, kissing the feet of a child with AIDS after he had washed his feet.

Links to biographies of Pope Francis: Vatican Website & Wikipedia 

Click here for the YouTube Playlist on the Papal Election

Click here for St. Francis of Assisi Resources

Click here for St. Francis Xavier Resources



POPEChoosing a new pope is a bit of a mystery to most people. In the early Church, a pope was elected not only by the bishops but also by the clergy and the laity. In later years, only the bishops took part in the election. In some cases, political leaders or even bishops attempted to influence the election, which often led to conflicts within the Church and the naming of “antipopes,” those in opposition to the elected Pope. The foundation for the current process of electing a pope was laid in 1059 at the Lateran Council, although it has gone through much development since then.

The last Pope to resign was Pope Celestine V in 1294. Two other Popes resigned for Papal Political reasons and by prior arrangement and pragmatic compromise.  

In 1045, Pope Benedict IX agreed, for financial advantage, to resign the papacy. Pope Gregory VI, who in order to rid the Church of the scandalous Benedict, had persuaded him to resign and became his successor. Gregory himself resigned in 1046 because the arrangement he had entered into with Benedict was considered simoniacal; that is, to have been paid for. Gregory’s successor, Pope Clement II, died in 1047 and Benedict IX became Pope again.

The best-known resignation of a Pope is that of Pope Celestine V in 1294. After only five months of pontificate, he issued a solemn decree declaring it permissible for a Pope to resign, and then did so himself. He lived two more years as a hermit and was later canonised. The Papal decree that he issued ended any doubt among canonists about the possibility of a valid Papal resignation.

Click here to read about what happens between Pope Benedict’s resignation on February 28th & the election of Pope Francis.

Pope 6Click on Pope Benedict’s picture to view a photo slide show of his Papacy.

Click here to read a short biography of Pope Benedict XVI and on the Vatican website you can read his encyclicals & other writings.


•What do you think of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign on account of what he calls his ‘advanced age’? Should age be a barrier to continuing work?
•The Catholic Church has over one billion followers. What positive things would you try to do if you were made Pope for a day?

& complete the following activities:

Interactive Quiz 

Papal Election Wordsearch

Online Scavenger Hunt

The following is an overview of how a pope is elected today:

When it comes time to elect a new pope, the College of Cardinals gets together to convene what is referred to as a papal conclave, during which they vote on who will become the next successor of St. Peter. Watch these three videos to find out more about how to become pope, what happens during the conclave and the ins and outs of the voting.

Watch the Papal Conclave 2013 slide show on Animoto or below:



• Only cardinals can elect a pope. The number of cardinals cannot exceed 120. Cardinals who are over the age of eighty may participate in the conclave’s preparatory meetings, but are not allowed to cast a vote.

• Cardinals who cannot attend the conclave due to illness or other reasons can still vote. Special arrangements are made for those cardinals.

Details of the Cardinal Electors for the Papal Election

Fantasy Conclave League: The Fantasy Conclave League is a chance to share your prediction on which Cardinal will be elected Pope and learn more about the papal election and conclave process. This site is a way to encourage education and interest in the process and is not a betting site. There is a prize if you guess correctly. 


• After the cardinals have taken their oath, paper ballots with the words Eligo in Summum Pontifacem (“I elect as Supreme Pontiff”) are distributed. The cardinals write the name of the candidate they are voting for and fold the ballot twice.

• One by one, each cardinal carries his ballot to the altar, where there is a chalice covered by a paten. He holds his ballot up so everyone can see that he has voted. As he places his ballot on the paten and slides it into the chalice, he says, “I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected.”

• After all of the ballots have been collected, the cardinal camerlengo and three assistants, called scrutineers, count them.

Sample Papal Voting Card 


• The first scrutineer silently reads the ballot, notes the name of the person chosen, and passes it to the second scrutineer. He in turn does the same and passes it to the third scrutineer. The third scrutineer reads the name aloud for all to hear, writes the name on a separate sheet of paper prepared for that purpose, and then runs a needle and thread through the ballot. After all the ballots have been joined together in this way, they are then placed in another receptacle or on one side of the table.

• When all the votes have been read, the three scrutineers tally them. If no one receives a two-thirds majority, a pope has not been elected, and a new vote must be taken. If someone does receive a two-thirds majority, then there is a new pope.

• After the votes have been tallied, any notes the cardinals have made are collected and placed with the ballots, which are burned by the scrutineers. If a new pope has been elected, the papers are burned, giving off white smoke. If no one has been elected, the papers are burned with an additive that gives off black smoke. This lets the crowds waiting and watching outside know the progress of the election.

Papal Election Literacy Terms

Click here for the Conclave Timetable.

Tuesday Conclave Timetable

15:45 – Transfer from Domus Sanctae Marthae to Pauline Chapel

16:30 – Procession from Pauline Chapel to Sistine Chapel

16:45 – Oath administered and Extra omnes! Proclaimed

Followed by meditation by Card. Prosper Grech, OSA
Eventual 1st vote – Black smoke after 1st vote

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 (all times Rome local: GMT + 1)

      06:30 – Breakfast served in Domus S. Marthae (until 7:30)

 07:45 – Transfer from Domus S. Marthae to Sistine Chapel

 08:15 – Mass

 09:30 – Hora Media in Sistine Chapel

Morning vote(s) (scrutiny(ies) taken

12:30 – Cardinals return to Domus Sanctae Marthae

13:00 – Lunch

16:00 – Cardinals return to Sistine Chapel

16:50 – Scrutinies taken


Watch a live stream from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome here and change the audio to English.

www.istherewhitesmoke.com is a website where the smoke will turn WHITE when a pope is chosen. 

For further details about electing a pope click here or you can read the detailed Step by Step through the Papal Interregnum guide from CTS here.

Graphic illustration of a Papal Conclave can be viewed here and an interactive graphic showing the process of the papal conclave can be viewed here.

The Australian Diocese of Toowoomba has put together an excellent Papal Election Resource Booklet with activities for students. 


The dean of the college of cardinals, or the most senior cardinal, asks the elected cardinal if he accepts his election and what name he would like to be called as Pope. If the elected cardinal assents, he immediately becomes the bishop of Rome, or Pope.

• All the cardinals pledge their obedience to the new Pope.

• The dean of the college of cardinals announces from the balcony of the Vatican that a new pope has been elected and proclaims his name. The new Pope then steps onto the balcony and gives the Apostolic Blessing.