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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Oct 26, 2020

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.


The Pope, and the Pope alone, sets the rules for a papal conclave. The Pope, and the Pope alone, can change those rules— whenever he wants, for whatever reason he chooses.

The current rules stipulate that no more than 120 cardinals can participate in a conclave. That rule was set by Pope Paul VI and confirmed by Pope John Paul II. Pope Francis could change the rule, but evidently he has chosen not to do so. Instead he has chosen to break it.

After the November 28 conclave, barring a death, there will be 128 cardinals eligible to take part in a conclave: eight more than the maximum.  ….