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The Papal Conclave: How Does It Work?

6:22 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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(USA Today) -- During the conclave, where the pope is elected, the cardinal electors, those under the age of 80, meet in the Sistine Chapel, sleep in special apartments within Vatican City and have no contact with the outside world.

But who gets to vote?

There are 207 cardinals worldwide. In this conclave, 115 electors will vote. Before the voting began, they celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and then entered the chapel. 

The Secret Ballots: 

Two-thirds majority is needed to elect the new pope. Cardinals disguise their handwriting to mark their ballots. Ballots are put in a golden urn. Each cardinal fold his ballot twice, then submits it. If the number of ballots and electors match, then the ballots are opened and recorded. If the count does not match, a new vote is taken. 

Voting, again and again:

The cardinals took one vote in the afternoon of the first day. After that, two votes are taken each morning and two each afternoon. If no pope is chosen, the ballots are burned, and one of the stoves will send up black smoke. If a pope has not been elected after three days, the cardinals will take a day for prayer and discussions. 

Public Will Know:

Once a pope has been chosen, the ballots are burned in a stove that sends up white smoke. In 2005, the Vatican added an additional form of notice: The biggest bell at St. Peter's Basilica will ring. 

Becoming Pope:

The newly elected pope accepts the papacy and chooses his new name. He changes into the traditional white papal vestments. Each elector then offers a sign of homage and obedience. 

The new pope:

The senior cardinal deacon then appears on the balcony of the basilica to announce the new pope and the name he has selected. The pope appears and gives his blessing. 


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