A Catholic priest has paid almost £5,000 for a ballot paper and a scrutiny sheet used to count votes at the papal conclave in 1903.
Fr Richard Kunst has what may be the largest collection of papal memorabilia in the world outside of the Vatican and will now add the new items to his collection.
The objects are particularly significant because ballot and scrutiny papers are supposed to be burned after each vote.
The 1903 conclave is historic because Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria vetoed the front-runner, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, apparently because of his liberal views. Cardinal Rampolla had been secretary of state under the previous pope, Leo XIII.
Fr Kunst said he was so excited about the prospect of buying the ballot paper and scrutiny sheet that he couldn’t sleep the night before. He said: “I prayed about it for about three days beforehand. I couldn’t sleep because it was something that I was that enthusiastic about.”
Fr Kunst took part in the live auction, held in London, over the telephone from Minnesota. He said: “It was tense. I¹ve never really made a phone call bid. It was a live auction so it was intense. My heart rate was going. I collect anything papal related but papal elections are what’s most fascinating to me.
“This was a very important vote because it was the last vote before the veto was actually boycotted. So this was a history-changing vote it was not just any election. Any of these scrutiny sheets would be impressive but this one was most impressive because of the election.”
Fr Kunst said papal items were important tools for evangelisation. He said: “One of my lines I always use is that you can’t love something you know little about, so the more you learn about the faith my hope is the more people will be inspired by it. There’s a very human side of papal elections, while we also know that the Holy Spirit is intrinsically involved.” Fr Kunst’s papal memorabilia can be viewed at papalartefacts.org.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Catholic Herald (20/6/14)
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