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A short history of contentious conclaves

Mar 08, 2013

Vatican watchers say the conclave about to be held in Rome could be one of the most contentious in years — but that's by modern standards.

Dust off the history books and go back a few hundred years and there are papal conclaves rife with international intrigue, royal rigging, even riots...

Bribes were paid and there was even some insider trading: The cardinals' attendants supposedly cut deals with Roman bankers taking bets on who would be the next pope....

The drama of the 1559 conclave began before the cardinals were sequestered. Pope Paul IV was a despised figure — he had driven all the prostitutes out of Rome — and when he died, all hell broke loose.

"Rioters in Rome attacked the palace of the Inquisition ... and toppled the statue of the pope that stood on the Capitol," Michael Walsh wrote in "The Conclave: A Sometimes Secret and Occasionally Bloody History of Papal Elections."

The conclave dragged on for four months. Among the stumbling blocks: One of the cardinals refused to vote for a strong candidate on the grounds that he had a son, Baumgartner said....

Finally, the cardinals coalesced around a compromise candidate, Pope Pius IV. He had fathered at least a couple of kids, but the cardinal who had objected to the previous candidate claimed not to know it, Baumgartner said.


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Category: Corruption

Dr. Stephen Jones

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