College of Cardinals
The cardinals are by tradition the successors to the original apostles of Christ. The College of Cardinals emerged during the early Middle Ages from the bishops, deacons and priests of Rome and the surrounding area, who assisted the pope in his liturgical tasks. As the papal monarchy developed and struggled with secular rulers during the Middle Ages, the importance of the cardinals increased. They served as counsellors, legates and, with the growth of the papal bureaucracy, officials of curials departments. The College grew in size and came to include members from other parts of Europe. By the High Middle Ages the cardinals had developed into a type of cabinet of the Church. Since 1059 the cardinals have had sole responsibity for electing the pope, meeting in a conclave at the death of the incumbent to elect his successor.