A cardinal’s diary recording the 2005 conclave?

Pray for the Holy Father!

The intrepid Andrea Tornielli on his Vatican Insider of the Italian daily La Stampa has a story about a “diary” kept during the 2005 conclave which elected Benedict XVI.

If there really is a diary, then the conclavist, if he gave this diary to someone, violated the Pontifical Secret imposed on participants.

In any event, here is a taste of the piece, which is available in English.

The unpublished narrative of Conclave 2005
Andrea Tornielli
Vatican CITY

Sunday, 17 April. This afternoon I took a room at Casa Santa Marta. Setting down my bags, I tried to open the shades, as the room was dark, but it was impossible. One of my brothers had the same problem, and asked for help from the sisters in charge. He thought it was a technical problem. The sisters explained that the blinds had been sealed shut. Seclusion of the Conclave….A new experience for nearly all of us: out of 115 cardinals, only two had previously participated in the election of a pope….

With these words begin the “secret diary” of the conclave that led to the election of Benedict XVI on 19 April 2005 – the confidential, hand-written notes of an anonymous cardinal upon returning to his room after voting in the Sistine Chapel. This remarkable document, published in the journal Limes, allows a step-by-step reconstruction of the balloting process, raising the veil of secrecy that, by the will of the Popes, has always covered the conclave. From the cardinal’s notes obtained by the journal, we learn first of all that Ratzinger’s candidacy was extremely strong from the beginning.


You can read the rest over there.

Among other things, it contradicts another report that the liberal-leader, retired Card. Martini had played a strong role in brokering a quick election, a story I heard soon after the election.

A couple things.   I am not familiar with the journal Limes, but a search for the journal turned up”LIMES. Borderland Studies”, which figures, since Latin limes was the frontier between the Roman-controlled territory and the Germanic tribes.

Journal description: Research journal “Limes” publishes original peer reviewed papers concerning such fields of the humanities and social sciences as philosophy, science, history and sociology. Also, the journal unites three educational establishments representing three countries: Vilnius Gediminas Technical (Lithuania), University of Bialystok (Poland), Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno (Belarus) and Culture, Philosophy and Arts Research Institute

The languages mentioned in the description might point roughly to the region of the writer of the diary.

An aside about limes, the boundary between the Romans and the northern barbarians.  The limes was roughly the Rhine and Danube.  You can visit quite a fee archeological sites and museums about the limes if you are traveling by car in Europe.  It is worth the effort.  On of them, if memory serves, is at Xanten, where St. Norbert was from and where there is a partial reconstruction of a legion’s castra.  In any event, the limes marked a real border of enduring cultural differentiation.  For example, on one side, the peoples still tend to cook more with butter or olive oil and on the other lard.  One side used wine and the other beer.  One side remained Catholic while the other went Protestant.  Some of these differences depend also on climate, but the ancient Roman limes marks a rough cultural boundary even to this day.

And that, friends, is perhaps more interesting than the story of a diary which may or may not be the real deal.

Back to the issue of the Pontifical Secret imposed on participants in a conclave.

In John Paul II’s Universae dominici gregis, which legislated the guidelines for a papal conclave and election, we find:

58. Those who, in accordance with the prescriptions of No. 46 of the present Constitution, carry out any functions associated with the election, and who directly or indirectly could in any way violate secrecy — whether by words or writing, by signs or in any other way — are absolutely obliged to avoid this, lest they incur the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.

59. In particular, the Cardinal electors are forbidden to reveal to any other person, directly or indirectly, information about the voting and about matters discussed or decided concerning the election of the Pope in the meetings of Cardinals, both before and during the time of the election. This obligation of secrecy also applies to the Cardinals who are not electors but who take part in the General Congregations in accordance with No. 7 of the present Constitution.

60. I further order the Cardinal electors, graviter onerata ipsorum conscientia, to maintain secrecy concerning these matters also after the election of the new Pope has taken place, and I remind them that it is not licit to break the secret in any way unless a special and explicit permission has been granted by the Pope himself.

61. Finally, in order that the Cardinal electors may be protected from the indiscretion of others and from possible threats to their independence of judgment and freedom of decision, I absolutely forbid the introduction into the place of the election, under whatsoever pretext, or the use, should they have been introduced, of technical instruments of any kind for the recording, reproducing or transmitting of sound, visual images or writing.

It may be that a Cardinal who has died since the conclave leftr behind a diary someone found.  Who knows.

You decide.

In the meantime, do pray for the Pope we have now!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mike says:

    And, if I may add, the next Pope, who is out there somewhere. Pave the way with prayers.

  2. mattmcg says:

    the veil of secrecy that, by the will of the Popes, has always covered the conclave

    well, not always… anybody who’s read the fascinating account Cardinal Piccolomini gives in his Commentaries, describing the tense conclaves before his own election as Pius II can be assured that conclave secrecy is a modern concern

  3. jasoncpetty says:

    Or it’s a fake.

    Or it’s by some Cardinal for whom the rules are just a joke to be played along with. Not like we’ve never had those before.

  4. LouiseA says:

    Perhaps the church should also have a penalty for publishing such an account.

  5. The Cobbler says:

    Are pen and paper covered under “technical instruments” in Latin, or does that phrase refer to electronics or mechanical devices (then again, a pen is almost mechanical, broadly speaking)?

  6. Pachomius says:

    If it’s meant to be secret, should we read it? Would reading materials which were meant to be secret after they were published break canons?

  7. Jerry says:

    @Pacomius – “If it’s meant to be secret, should we read it?”

    While the guidelines don’t address, and thus cannot bind, readers, in my opinion we should refrain from reading that which should not be there for us to read. There may even be some graces to be gained by resisting the temptation.

  8. Clinton says:

    If it’s legit, it’s none of my business, and if it’s bogus, what’s the point of reading it?

  9. Jacob says:

    Back in 2005, this same journal Limes published a diary allegedly written during the conclave by one of the cardinals. Is this the same diary or a new, second one?

    Dr. Peters commented on it back then.

  10. Jacob says:

    Sorry for the double-post…

    But I found the link I was looking for. It goes to an article by Sandro Magister where he talks about the Limes article from 2005 and the narrative it was setting up for what happened in the conclave and what it meant as far as Ratzinger’s mandate as pope.


    This major discrepancy [referring to errors in the diary] is enough to cast doubt upon the reliability of the “historical rigor” of the diary. The rest of the text suggests, rather, that the “intention” to publish it was a much more combative one: to demonstrate that Ratzinger’s victory was not at all “plebiscitary,” that it was in question up until the last moment, that it was unduly favored by the fact that Ratzinger was the dean of the college of cardinals, that the time is ripe for a “new” pope, perhaps a Latin American, and that Benedict XVI should accept these as limiting factors.

    Comparing the numbers given in the Tornielli article to those Magister cites, it would seem that the diary in both Limes pieces is one and the same. Tornielli in his article never says that the Limes diary article he is citing is recently published. I wonder what his motives are for trotting out a six-year-old article about a diary that Magister made a good case at the time was fake.

  11. Norah says:

    On a Catholic discussion board in Australia (CathPews) and shortly after Ratzinger was elected someone, claiming to be an English speaking priest/psychologist working for the Italian Conference of Bishops, posted on this discussion board that the then Cardinal Ratzinger had done a deal with liberal cardinals in order to be elected pope. This person provided no sources for this allegation.

    I’m with those posters who say that we shouldn’t be reading material which was meant to be secret. I feel the same about the publication of the late Pope John Paul’s private papers and the publication of Mother Teresa’s private letters re her feelings of distance from God.

  12. tecumseh says:

    Anyone recall Bishop Fellays interesting comments about the conclave just after the election..??

    “Don’t ask us how we know, but we know that Cardinal Daneels, Cradinal McCormack and the Cradinal of Scotland moved early for Martini, but the South Americans moved strongly for Cardinal Ratzinger”

    Not the exact wording, but the mixing up Cardinal McCormack…..there wasn’t such a person but there was Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, and the Cardinal of Scotland who remained unnamed…Keith Patrick O’Brien. Then there was Murphy O’Connors famous interveiw after the Election where he sid these very words….

    “They have elected this man”…..

    A three pipe problem Watson and no mistake….???

  13. tecumseh says:


  14. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Perhaps Father could shed some light on this topic? When Cardinal Arinze said “If he should not receive, then he should not be given”; when someone drives a woman to an abortuary; if it is wrong to MAKE pornography, it is also wrong to sell it and to view it ……

    Wouldn’t it be wrong to read this account, precisely because it was wrong to write it and to publish it?

    Would His Grace be excommunicated for telling us “they” elected …..?

    God bless,

  15. Imrahil says:

    It was wrong to write it (probably; I don’t know the respective law and am to lazy to look it up) and publish it (certainly), and this for two reasons: 1. breach of secrecy is intrinsically wrong (called with the same word as treason by my people), 2. it has been forbidden by competent authority.

    Neither, as far as I know, is true about using knowledge floating around, even if the fact of its floating around is deplorable. However, we shouldn’t of course look for confirmation of a prejudice that holds the Church to be divided, etc.

Comments are closed.