Rapid Response:
Rapid response assemblies are provided on the site when there is an event in the news, good or bad, that touches children's lives, so we can offer you a way to acknowledge it in your collective worship.


By Alan M. Barker  


As with all rapid response assemblies, you might need to update this assembly prior to use.


Suitable for Key Stage 2



To understand the significance of the election of Pope Francis.

Preparation and resources
  • Note that this assembly provides a general introduction to the voting process for a new pope. Those leading collective worship in Catholic schools may wish to supplement this resource.
  • Find appropriate news images on the internet to illustrate the assembly, such as cardinals in their robes, the crowds in St Peter’s Square, the Vatican with the balcony and the chimney with black and white smoke (optional, but, if used check and observe any restrictions relating to copyright).


  1. Introduce the assembly by saying that, during the past two days, the attention of people across the world has been focused on the Vatican – a tiny independent state in Rome. The leaders (cardinals) of the Roman Catholic Church have gathered together to elect a new pope. The pope, or Holy Father, is head of the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. The College of Cardinals – 115, from many different countries – have met ‘in conclave’, which means that the cardinals meet in private. Together they have prayed and thought about the kind of leader needed by the Church. The new pope is chosen from among their number by a voting process. Ask the children what kind of person the school community might feel would make a good leader.

    Explain how the cardinals vote several times – which means that they each record their choice of leader and these are totalled up for each cardinal. According to custom, two thirds of the cardinals need agree on the same person for that person to be named pope.

    (If using, show images of cardinals, crowds in St Peter’s Square and the chimney with white and black smoke.)
  3. Crowds of people in St Peter’s Square have watched for smoke coming from a chimney in the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Black smoke signals that no one has been chosen yet, the voting has been inconclusive. Yesterday evening (13 March), white smoke showed that agreement had been reached and the new pope had been decided on by the cardinals. It was an exciting and very special moment!

    The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, comes from Argentina. He is the first pope from Latin America. Popes choose a name that they will be known by – it can be a saint’s name, but is not always – and he has chosen the name Francis. Thousands of people waved and applauded as he appeared in front of the crowds. Discuss with the children how the new pope might be feeling and how members of the school community feel when chosen for a position of leadership.
  4. Pope Francis is known for living very simply. He has shown great concern for the poor. Before praying for the crowds, he first asked everyone to quietly pray for him. Ask the children what prayers the school community would offer for the new pope.

    Then Pope Francis blessed the crowds. He said that ‘the world should set off on a path of love’. People across the world will be watching and find inspiration in the things he says and does.


Time for reflection

Ask the children to think about the importance of caring and inspiring leadership.


Dear God,

we pray that all faith leaders may be given wisdom and understanding to heal divisions and work together for peace.




Dear God,

we pray for Pope Francis and look forward with joy to sharing the path of love, which is your will for the world.

We make our prayer through Christ.



Song and music

‘Make me a Channel of your Peace’ (based on the prayer of St Francis)





The Assemblies Website is an initiative of SPCK Copyright ©2000 SPCK, all rights reserved.

SPCK - Publishing Christian Books