Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library
Search all guides

Papal Election Research Guide

This guide lists and describes sources for researching the law of papal elections.


After a papacy that lasted almost 8 years, Pope Benedict XVI has decided to resign, effective February 28, 2013. This is the first time in 600 years that a pope has stepped down. Pope Benedict XVI is 85 years old and was quoted as saying, "Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

On February 25, 2013, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict had signed a legal document making changes to the conclave starting date so that a new pope could be elected before Easter. This marks the first changes to the papal election procedures since the 1996 papal election law passed by Pope John Paul II.

Below are websites and books that inform the election process in general.