The election of a pope doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the whole world—believers and non-believers, media commentators and Vatican watchers alike—stops to watch. The first question is: what happens now? The answer is surprisingly straightforward: there is a system in place that is followed step by step.
But then the questions tumble one after the other: Why do the cardinals have the exclusive right to pick the popes? How did the “bad” Renaissance Medicis get chosen? What were the longest and shortest conclaves? If everything is supposed to be so secretive, how do we know so much about past conclaves—or is this just rumor and gossip, propaganda and punditry? Can a pope be deposed? Have any resigned or been assassinated? What if a pope becomes incapacitated—who’s in charge then?
This concise, three-segment series by award-winning Catholic historian Christopher Bellitto is designed to thoughtfully answer your questions.
Here, in Picking Popes, Dr. Bellitto reviews the colorful history of picking popes, conclaves, and cardinals. You’ll find plenty of anecdotes and analyses from a history professor who works with the media during papal transitions. Find answers to both common and troubling questions. These answers will help reveal one of the most intriguing tasks of the world’s oldest and longest-surviving monarchy—the papacy—which, surprisingly, is led by a man who is voted into power by his peers.
We recommend the video version of this series, given its rich imagining and Professor Bellitto’s dynamic teaching style.
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About Your Presenter
Dr. Christopher M. Bellitto is an award-winning historian, Associate Professor of History at Kean University, and Academic Editor at Paulist Press. He received a Ph.D. in History from Fordham University. He is the author of nine books and the co-editor of five others, and his writing has been honored by the American Catholic Historical Association and the Catholic Press Association. His books include 101 Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy (Paulist Press, 2008), Church History 101 (Liguori Publications, 2008), Ten Ways the Church Has Changed (Pauline Books and Media, 2006), The General Councils: A History of the 21 Church Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II (Paulist Press, 2002) and Renewing Christianity: A History of Church Reform from Day One to Vatican II (Paulist Press 2001). His articles have appeared in Church History, America, Commonweal, U.S. Catholic, and many other journals. A frequent public speaker and media commentator on Church history and contemporary Catholicism, he has appeared on The History Channel, NPR, CNN, and other radio and television stations.
Praise for Christopher Bellitto
“Christopher Bellitto is one of the most compelling and accessible Church historians working today. He brings together the skills of a journalist with scholar’s expertise.”
— Dr. C. Colt Anderson, Dean, Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, Fordham University
“One discovers in Professor Bellitto that all too rare combination of scholarly expertise and exquisite communicator. His lectures weave humor with erudition, prophetic challenge with passion for the people of God, and historical objectivity with deep care for the Church.”
— Dr. Elena Procario-Foley, Chair, Religious Studies Department, Iona College
- What Happens When a Pope Dies?
- Conclaves and Cardinals: A History
- Difficult Questions