A “Crash Course” on Papal Conclaves!

Last evening, I had only about 10 minutes with my 6th graders (after we attended a presentation in the gym) so I used the time to talk to them a little bit about the papal conclave.

  • First, I asked if anyone knew what important event was happening in Rome beginning Tuesday and most of them knew that a new pope was being elected.
  • Then, I asked if anyone knew the correct term for this event and one young man responded “conclave.”
  • I explained that 115 cardinals have gathered in Rome and have spent the last week or so talking and getting to know one another better so that they have a clearer idea of who might best serve as our next Holy Father.
  • I then explained how the voting happens in a prayerful context without debate and bickering and explained that after each round of voting, the ballots are counted until someone receives a two-thirds majority.
  • ceci n'est pas un nuage I asked if anyone knew how the cardinals indicate to the world whether they have elected a pope or not and the same young man who knew the word conclave responded about the black smoke and white smoke! (sharp kid…I’m pretty sure his mom is a high school religion teacher!)
  • the kids were fascinated with the white/black smoke tradition.
  • I then taught them how to say “We have a pope!” in Latin: “Habemus Papam!” (pronounced Hah-BEH-moos PAH-pahm). They were quite tickled by this and kept repeating it until they got it right! I told them to pay attention to the news for the use of this phrase.
  • Finally, I explained how the new pope will be asked to announce the name he has chosen before coming out on the balcony and meeting the world and I reminded them that, when they are confirmed, they will have a choice of selecting a new name as well to signify being born again.
  • We prayed for the cardinals and as the kids left, I shouted, “and how do we say ‘we have a pope!’ in Latin?” and they shouted back, “HABEMUS PAPAM!” as they moved through the hallways!

[photo courtesy of Pedro Moura Pinheiro via Compfight]

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. This is such a teachable moment! I am a 2nd grade CCE teacher, and our kiddos just started their spring break, here in Texas. I’m hoping and praying that the Church will have a new pope by the time we resume our classes on March 23rd…so I can “introduce” him to my kiddos! Thanks for sharing your experience with your students!

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