Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Catholic school puts conclave in the classroom

All Saints Catholic School eighth-graders dress as cardinals and trail behind Joseph Lopez after he was voted the new pope during a March 7 conclave. (Dan Pelle)
All Saints Catholic School eighth-graders dress as cardinals and trail behind Joseph Lopez after he was voted the new pope during a March 7 conclave. (Dan Pelle)

Before Jorge Bergoglio was selected as the new pope Wednesday, students at All Saints Catholic School held their own conclave. They came dressed in red capes. Some were made out of blankets, some looked more like wizards’ capes and some were simply made out of red cloth. And they all wore the traditional little red beanie: the zucchetto.

The two eighth-grade classes at All Saints Catholic School were sequestered last Thursday, where they followed Roman Catholic protocol and selected a new pope.

Leading up to the conclave, the 55 students had each picked the name of a voting cardinal and researched his work and opinions.

“A papal conclave is so infrequent we have to relearn the ritual every time,” said Nick Senger, vice principal and eighth-grade teacher. “If they pick a younger pope we may not see a conclave for another 20 years.”

In Rome, 115 voting cardinals were sequestered in the Sistine Chapel as they elected a new pope for the approximately 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world. The conclave in Rome began Tuesday. Senger said the pope is elected by two-thirds majority and the cardinals may vote several times a day until they find a new pope.

The students at All Saints began their conclave by singing the English version of the Latin song the cardinals in Rome sing.

“We invoke the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts this way,” said Kolleen Murray, who’s also an eighth-grade teacher at All Saints.

Watch Pia Hallenberg talk about this story on KHQ

Senger explained that they tried to recreate the ritual of the conclave in as much detail as they could.

“It is a slow and deliberate process. There is no rushing,” Senger told the students who were sitting in neat rows. “We know we will be done at noon, but the cardinals in Rome may take as long as they want to.”

One by one the students stood and walked up to an urn where they said a short prayer and placed their vote. It took about 20 minutes before all the students had voted.

The first vote yielded no clear winner or strong front runner.

The students went through the voting procedure again.

The second vote didn’t yield a winner though cardinals Peter Turkson and Robert Sarah were clear front runners. Cardinal Turkson is from Ghana and he has served as archbishop of Cape Coast. Cardinal Sarah is from Guinea and has served as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Conakry.

By 11:15 a.m. the students were getting ready to vote for the third time and with lunch time looming just around the corner, Senger changed the rules so a new pope could be elected by a simple majority.

As the third vote came to a conclusion and was counted out loud, Cardinal Turkson was a clear winner.

Joseph Lopez, 13, who was Turkson’s stand-in, was really surprised that he’d become pope for the day.

“It’s fun. It feels good,” said Lopez, while students around him cheered and hugged him.

Lopez said he studied Turkson’s work and philosophy.

“And I like that he’s from Ghana. I think that would be a nice change,” Lopez said.

He added that he’d never considered becoming pope himself.

As for good advice for the new pope, Lopez had this to say:

“I think the church should get more involved with the younger generation. And they should use more technology at the Vatican. Like Twitter. I think that would be a good idea.”