How to become pope: 14 steps (with pictures)

Table of contents:

How to become pope: 14 steps (with pictures)
How to become pope: 14 steps (with pictures)

The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. In principle, the only requirements to become a pope are to be a man and a practicing Catholic. The result is quite a wide range of possibilities, but all of the popes elected in recent centuries have all been cardinals first and then elected in conclave by other cardinals. To become a pope, you must start as a priest and climb the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy until you are elected by your peers. Remember, however, that it is essential to fully believe in the Catholic faith. It's not just a job, it's more than a vocation.


Part 1 of 3: Become a priest

Become Pope Step 1
Become Pope Step 1

Step 1. Become Catholic

To become a pope, you must be a man, but also a Catholic. If you were not born into the Catholic faith, you will have to convert. We speak of the Ritual of Christian Initiation.

  • It will take time, because you will need to educate yourself in the Catholic faith and follow the path of the Church. This process is called catechism.
  • You will need to be baptized. You will do this once you have completed your training.
  • Becoming a Catholic is one way to explore the faith. You must be guided and supervised. If you want to get started in this process, contact your local church.
Become Pope Step 2
Become Pope Step 2

Step 2. View the priesthood as a calling

Being a priest isn't just a job, it's a way of life. Make sure you are aware of all the requirements associated with this function. Catholic priests are not allowed to marry or engage in any sexual activity.

  • Take some time to examine your vocation carefully and at length. You should consider your talents. Are you compassionate? Is your faith unshakeable? Are you satisfied with your vocation? These are some important qualities to have to become a priest.
  • Ask for advice. Speak to your own priest and ask him questions about his experience. Ask him specific questions, for example ask him what a priest does. Then take the time to think about the path you intend to take, whether you want to be a priest or not.
Become Pope Step 3
Become Pope Step 3

Step 3. Take a leadership role

As you age, you may begin to consider more actively whether becoming a spiritual leader would be right for you or not. All over the world, many dioceses offer training for young Catholics. Ask your priest if this option would be suitable for you. Many of these programs offer guidance in leadership training and spiritual growth. These programs can help you strengthen your faith and help you better understand your calling.

  • Enroll in a leadership program to help you develop the skills you will need to increase your influence in the Church as you progress to higher ranks.
  • If your church does not offer this kind of program, find out if there is a scholarship program that could allow you to attend one of these meetings in another area.
Become Pope Step 4
Become Pope Step 4

Step 4. Get an education

You will need specific training before you become a priest. First of all, you need to finish your high school education and while you are in high school you can start by embarking on this adventure. For example, it may be useful to take a foreign language course. The Pope is an international figure, which means communication is a great skill to learn, especially if you are actually becoming a Pope.

Talk to your guidance counselor. Most high schools have a guidance counselor whose role is to help students make a life plan after graduation. Tell him you are looking for a seminary and theological program to help you on your career path

Become Pope Step 5
Become Pope Step 5

Step 5. Keep learning

You will need to go to a traditional college or seminary to become a priest. To attend a seminar, you may need a bachelor's degree or a high school leaving certificate. A seminary is a religious establishment where young people who are destined for the ecclesiastical state study. There are many seminars all over France and around the world.

  • Some young people might attend a formal university before deciding to become a priest. Often, after graduation from university, they will begin graduate studies.
  • Graduate studies will have to be done in a theological faculty of a university. The master's degree in theology is one example.
Become Pope Step 6
Become Pope Step 6

Step 6. Get the right training

Your spiritual journey is important and therefore it is essential to choose the area in which you will be able to develop the skills necessary to pursue your vocation. Consider different schools. Ask yourself if you prefer a full spiritual education or if you just want to focus on learning more about Catholic doctrine. Be sure to visit your campus before making your decision.

  • Have discussions with students who are currently attending the school you plan to attend. Also find out about the experiences of former students.
  • Ask yourself if this particular program can be of use to you, both spiritually and intellectually.

Part 2 of 3: Developing Your Career

Become Pope Step 7
Become Pope Step 7

Step 1. Be an excellent priest

Once you are a priest, you must be good at your job. This is the best way to be promoted to a higher rank. A good priest is reliable and helps the members of his church as well as his community.

  • As a priest, you are responsible for the spiritual well-being of your congregation. You will have to administer the sacraments, direct the masses and listen to the confessions.
  • An exemplary priest obtains the title of “Monsignor”.
Become Pope Step 8
Become Pope Step 8

Step 2. Strengthen your people skills

Once you are a priest, any promotions you receive will be materialized by appointment. You must therefore make a good impression on people who occupy positions of responsibility higher than yours. Therefore, consider questions regarding the interests of others in your field.

  • Be a good communicator. Try to speak well in front of an audience. You have certainly done this as a priest before and you need to improve yourself as you move up in the Catholic hierarchy. Use confidence and precision when you speak.
  • Collaborate with others. As a bishop or cardinal, you will have to deal with other priests. Practice listening to the needs of others and communicate instructions effectively.
Become Pope Step 9
Become Pope Step 9

Step 3. Reach the rank of bishop

Basically, a bishop is the archpriest (or pastor) of a diocese. The term diocese designates the territory or region grouping together the churches placed under the authority of a bishop. An archbishop heads his diocese and also supervises the other bishops. The Pope is the one who is responsible for appointing all the bishops. Therefore, you need to give the advisers a good impression.

  • Make an effort to stay in constant contact with the Archbishop in your area. He may speak highly of you when asked for his opinion about you.
  • Bishops schedule periodic meetings during which they set liturgical policies and criteria for their region.
  • The Pope is responsible for appointing the bishops. He relies on the recommendations of the bishops.
  • Remember: you will not have to submit your formal application to become a bishop. This is only done by appointment.
  • The apostolic nuncio is the main adviser to the pope. He is the Pope's representative for the government and for the ecclesiastical hierarchy in different countries.
Become Pope Step 10
Become Pope Step 10

Step 4. Become a cardinal

A cardinal is a bishop who has been appointed by the Pope. The Pope appoints archbishops to act as cardinal of a specific diocese. However, not all regions have a cardinal.

  • Regions with a large Catholic population often have a cardinal.
  • Make the effort to live in an area that has a cardinal. You really won't be able to climb the ranks by living in an area with a rural population.
  • If you are a bishop, maintain a good relationship with the cardinal in your area. Assure him that you are eager to serve the Church and to showcase your excellent administrative skills.
  • Cardinals are very active in the administration of the Catholic Church.
  • Once again, there are no formal requests or interviews to take part in before becoming a cardinal. You must be appointed by the Pope.

Part 3 of 3: Being elected as Pope

Become Pope Step 11
Become Pope Step 11

Step 1. Prepare for a probable appointment

Since a new Pope is usually only chosen every decade, you need to be prepared for anything. Make an effort to stay in touch with members of the College of Cardinals. During this time, you should have already established a good professional reputation. Before the procedure for the next conclave, continue to prove that you will make a very good public figure.

  • In the days following the Pope's funeral, the cardinals will meet to prepare for the conclave. This is where “political politics” will take place and you must try to determine your supporters.
  • Let other cardinals know that you are willing to accept any appointment from them.
Become Pope Step 12
Become Pope Step 12

Step 2. Understand what the conclave is

The official process for electing a new pope is known as the “conclave”. The governing group of cardinals is referred to as the “Cardinal College” and the members come together to choose a new pope. The meeting takes place in the Sistine Chapel. Access to the Sistine Chapel is prohibited to the public. The term "conclave" literally means in Latin "locked with a key".

  • As a rule, the pope in office must die before the conclave is called. It is very rare for a pope to resign in full office.
  • The cardinals meet 15 to 20 days after the death of the pope in office to conduct a secret ballot.
  • Only cardinals are accepted in the chapel. But there are some exceptions like the medical staff.
  • Each cardinal must take the solemn oath to always respect the rules of the conclave, as drafted by Pope John Paul II.
  • After the first day of the conclave, two voices may take place each morning and two more each afternoon.
Become Pope Step 13
Become Pope Step 13

Step 3. Get as many votes as possible

It is considered inappropriate to "campaign" to elect the Pope. However, being a well-known and respected cardinal is a profession that is only reserved for a handful of people. Usually there is only a small group of successful candidates at the conclave. The candidate who obtains the most votes will be the new Pope.

  • The process of choosing the Pope takes place in three phases. The pre-election phase during which the ballot papers are prepared, the ballot characterized by the collection of ballots and the counting of the votes and finally the post-election phase marked by a new check of the ballot papers and their destruction.
  • The meeting can last several days, but not more than two weeks.
  • A cardinal must receive at least two-thirds of the votes cast by the members of the conclave to be elected pope. After each vote, the ballots are burned. If black smoke escapes from the chapel chimney, it means there will be another vote. On the other hand, white smoke announces the election of a new pope.
Become Pope Step 14
Become Pope Step 14

Step 4. Perform your duties

The Pope is the spiritual leader of the Christian community in the world. Currently, there are about 1.2 billion Catholics. The Pope is also the head of the smallest sovereign state in the world, which is none other than the Vatican.

  • The Pope delivers his traditional blessing every week to pilgrims visiting the Vatican. It also speaks to a general audience each week.
  • The Pope presides over all major religious holidays, such as Christmas and Passover.
  • Modern popes travel the world, meeting Catholics and leaders from all over the world.


  • Learn as many languages as possible. If you are a Pope, people will expect you to speak French, Italian, and English, but learning other languages will help you connect with your devotees all over the world.
  • Make a name for yourself, but avoid getting too controversial. Your fellow cardinals will be more likely to elect you pope if you are known for your good works and have a charitable demeanor, rather than your tendency to stir people up with unpopular statements.

Popular by topic