- When a Pope dies the "Camerlengo"
(Cardinal that manages the Pope's secular affairs) seals the pope's
dwelling place in the Vatican and prepares for his burial. At present,
Spanish Cardinal Martinez Somalo is the "Camerlengo" for the
- Cardinals then gather at the Vatican to
vote for the next Pope. This usually begins within 15 to 30 days after
the death of the sitting Pope.
- While the gathering and the voting process
is taking place, the "College of Cardinals" carry the responsibility
of running the day to day activities of the church. At present Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger is the head of the college of Cardinals. He is also
in the running for a possible
- Out of the 180 Cardinals, only those under
the age of 80 will participate in the election process.
- They will gather in the Sistine Chapel to
vote by secret ballot as many times as is needed to come to a two thirds majority
vote. After each vote, the ballots are burned with chemicals added to
make the smoke rising from the Vatican either black or white. Black
signifies a failed vote, white signifies a successful vote. If after
30 failed voting sessions they may opt to a simple majority.
- It is believed that any Roman Catholic can
be elected Pope, however, for centuries it has only been active Cardinals
under the age of 80 that have been elected.
- The voting process can last as little as
one day, or as long as 54 days as it did in 1831. Once the Pope is elected,
white smoke rises to alert the gather Catholics a new Pope has been
- Once a Pope is elected, a senior Cardinal
shouts the words, "Habemus Papam!" (We have a pope!) from
the Vatican balcony.