Become Pope

The pope is the head of the Catholic church. Technically, the only requirements to become pope are that you be a male and a practicing Catholic. This leaves a pretty wide field, but every pope for the past several centuries has been a cardinal who was elected in a papal conclave by other cardinals. To become pope, begin by becoming a priest and working your way up through the Catholic hierarchy until you are elected by your peers. Keep in mind that it is essential to fully believe in the Catholic faith. This is not just a job, but more of a vocation.


Becoming a Priest

  1. Become a Catholic. To become Pope, you must be both male and Catholic. If you were not born into the Catholic faith, you will need to convert. The process is called the Rite of Christian Initiation.[1]
    • This is a process that will take time. You need to become educated in the Catholic faith and the ways of the church. This process is called catechism.
    • You will need to be baptized. This occurs after your education is finished.
    • Becoming a Catholic is an exploration of faith. You must be guided and mentored. Contact your local church to begin the process.
  2. Consider your calling. Being a priest is not just a job, it is a lifestyle. Make sure that you are aware of all of the requirements. Catholic priests are not allowed to marry or engage in sexual activity.[2]
    • Spend some time considering your vocation. You should consider your gifts. Are you compassionate? Is your faith strong? Are you happy with your vocation? These are important qualities for a priest.
    • Get some advice. Talk to your own priest and ask about his experience. Ask specific questions, such as what a priest does. Then take some time to reflect on the path you feel you should take, whether you want to be a priest or not.
  3. Take a leadership role. As you get older, you can begin to more actively consider whether a career as a spiritual leader is right for your life. Around the world, many diocese offer leadership programs for Catholic youth. Ask your local priest if this is an option for you. Many of these programs offer courses in leadership development and spiritual growth. These programs can help you strengthen your faith, and make your vocation easier to understand[3]
    • Enrolling in a leadership program can help you get a sense of the skills you will need to take on greater authority within the church as your career progresses to higher ranks.
    • If your church does not offer a leadership program, find out of there is a scholarship program that will enable you to attend one in another region.
  4. Get an education. You will need specific educational training to become a priest. First, you must complete high school. While you are in high school, you can begin your journey towards becoming a priest. It would be useful to take classes in a foreign language, for example. The Pope is an international figure, so communication is an excellent skill to learn, especially if you actually become Pope.
    • Talk to your guidance counselor. Most high schools have a guidance counselor who can help you make a plan for life after graduating. Ask her to help you research seminaries and theological programs to go to in order to progress in your career.
  5. Continue your learning. You will need to go to either a traditional college or a seminary to become a priest. To enter a seminary, you need either a high school diploma or a G.E.D. A seminary is a college that educates potential priests. There are many seminaries in all parts of the United States, and around the world.
    • Some young men will attend traditional college before deciding to become a priest. Often, after obtaining a college degree, they will begin graduate work.
    • Graduate work is done at a theology school, which is associated with a university. An example of the degree earned is a Master of Divinity.
  6. Choose the right Education. Your spiritual journey is important, so it's a big choice to decide where to hone the skills you need to follow your progressing vocation. Consider many different schools. Ask yourself if you want a well-rounded spiritual education, or if you want to focus solely on learning more about Catholic doctrine. Make sure to visit the campus before finalizing your decision.[4]
    • Talk to students who currently attend the school you are considering. Also ask alumnae about their experience.
    • Think about whether that particular program will help you grow both spiritually and intellectually.

Advancing Your Career

  1. Be an effective priest. Once you become a priest, you want to make sure that you excel at your job. This is the best way to earn a promotion in the ranks of the church. A good priest is dependable, and helps the members of his church and the community.[5]
    • As a priest, you are responsible for the spiritual well-being of your congregation. You will preform sacraments, conduct Mass, and hear confession.
    • An exemplary priest earns the designation "Monsignor".
  2. Hone your people skills. After you are a priest, any promotion that you receive will be by appointment. This means that you need to make a good impression on people who are in leadership positions above you. Work on relating well to others in your field.[6]
    • Be an effective communicator. Make sure that you are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. You already do this as a priest, and it will become more important as you advance in the church. Be confident and clear when you speak.
    • Work well with others. As a bishop or cardinal, you will need to manage other priests. Practice listening to the needs of others, and effectively communicating instructions.
  3. Become a bishop. A bishop is essentially the chief priest (or pastor) of a diocese. A diocese is the territory or region that contains the churches under a bishop's authority. An archbishop governs his diocese and also oversees other bishops. The pope is responsible for choosing all bishops. Therefore, you need to make a good impression on those who advise him.[6]
    • Make sure that you are in regular communication with the archbishop for your region. He will be able to offer a positive recommendation when asked for his opinion about you.
    • Bishops gather for regular meetings, where they set policy and liturgical standards for their region.
    • The pope is responsible for appointing bishops. He relies on existing bishops to provide him with recommendations.
    • Remember, you cannot formally apply to become a bishop. You must be appointed.
    • The pope's chief adviser in this process is the Apostolic Nuncio. He is the pope's representative to the government and church hierarchy in individual countries.
  4. Become a cardinal. A cardinal is a bishop who is chosen by the pope to receive this special designation. The pope selects archbishops to serve as cardinal of a specific diocese. Not all regions have a cardinal.[7]
    • Areas with significant Catholic populations, such as Boston and Baltimore, are often where the pope chooses to create a cardinal.
    • Make sure you live in a region that has a cardinal. You will not be likely to rise to this position from a small, rural population.
    • When you are a bishop, maintain a positive relationship with the cardinal of your area. Make it clear that you are eager to serve the Church, and demonstrate your effective administrative skills.
    • Cardinals are active in the administration of the Catholic church.
    • There is not a formal application or interview process to become a cardinal. You must be appointed by the pope.

Being Elected Pope

  1. Prepare for nomination. Since a new pope is usually only chosen every few decades, it is important to be prepared. Make sure that you are in communication with the members of the College of Cardinals. By now you should have established a good professional reputation. As conclave approaches, continue working to demonstrate that you would make a positive public figure.[8]
    • In the days following the funeral of the pope, the cardinals gather to prepare for conclave. This is where "politicking" occurs. Try to assess who your supporters are.
    • Make it clear to the other cardinals that you are willing to accept the nomination.
  2. Understand conclave. The official process for electing a pope is known as "conclave". The governing group of cardinals, known as the College of Cardinals, gather together to chose a new pope. This group gathers in the Sistine Chapel. All others are barred from entry. "Conclave" in latin means "locked with a key" literally. [8]
    • Typically, the current must die in order for conclave to convene. It is extremely rare for a pope to resign.
    • The cardinals gather 15-20 days after the death of the pope to conduct a secret ballot.
    • Only the cardinals are allowed in the chapel. There are a few exceptions, such as medical personnel.
    • Each cardinal must take a solemn oath that he will adhere to the rules of conclave, as written by Pope John Paul II.
    • After the first day of conclave, two votes may be taken each morning, and two each afternoon.
  3. Get the most votes. It is not considered appropriate to "campaign" for pope. However, being a well-known and respected cardinal is a job only a select few hold. There are usually only a small group of candidates considered at conclave. The man with the most votes is elected as the new pope.[9]
    • There are three phases to the actual voting process: pre-scrutiny, where the ballots are prepared; scrutiny, where the ballots are collected and counted; and post-scrutiny, where the ballots are checked again and then burned.
    • Conclave can last several days, but generally does not last longer than two weeks.
    • A cardinal must receive 2/3 of the votes in order to be elected pope. After each vote, the ballots are burned. If black smoke is seen coming from the chapel, it means there will be another vote. White smoke signals the election of a new pope.
  4. Perform your duties. The pope is the spiritual leader of the Catholic people of the world. Currently, there are approximately 1.2 billion Catholics. The pope is also head of the world's smallest sovereign state, The Vatican.[10]
    • The pope presides over a weekly blessing for people visiting the Vatican. He also offers a general audience each week.
    • The pope presides over all major religious celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter.
    • Modern popes travel around the world, meeting Catholics and world leaders.


  • Learn as many languages as you can. As pope, you will be expected to communicate in Italian and English, but knowing other languages will help you reach out to your faithful all across the world.
  • Make a name for yourself, but avoid becoming too controversial. Your fellow Cardinals will be more likely to elect you pope if you are known for your good works and charitable attitude instead of your tendency to stir people up with unpopular statements.

Sources and Citations

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