The process has begun! Conclave 2013! For the most of us, this new Pope could be our last.  How do they do it?  What are the rules for picking a Pope?

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First and foremost, you have to be a Cardinal.  Can’t just pick Vatican Joe Blow off the street, pity.

Second; you have to be under the age 80.  As it happens 115 Cardinals are eligible this time around.

Next, we break out the bibles and pillowcases.  Last one standing wins.

O.K. sorry that’s wrong, be entertaining as hell, but wrong on many levels.

Of course, they’ve been doing this a while now, so there are a series of choreographed rules and rituals that they follow.  But you should know, the crack about the bibles and pillow cases, might be true, who’s to say, because all this is done behind closed, and locked, doors.

First day has the cardinals gathering in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, filing into the Sistine Chapel chanting the Litany of Saints and the Latin hymn “Vedi Creator”, imploring the saints and the Holy Spirit to help them pick the pope.

All the cardinals then stand under Michelangelo’s “Creation” and before his “Last Judgment” and places their hands on a book of the Gospels and pledges never to reveal the details of the conclave.  Not sure when the burn a piece of paper in their hands.

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Then a mediation on the qualities needed for the next pope, and the challenges ahead for the church, will be delivered by Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech.  The master of liturgical celebrations then cries “Extra omnes”, which is Latin for “all out”.  Which is exactly what it means, everyone leaves, except the cardinals, and then the party begins, or the voting, if you want to get specific.

How the voting works is like this…each cardinal will write his choice on a piece of paper, walk up to the altar and say “I call as my witness, Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who, before God, I thing should be elected”

The ballots are then counted.  Then their bound together with a needle and tread, and burned in the chapel stove, along with a chemical, to produce either black or white smoke.

Two-thirds majority is needed (this time 77 votes). Up to 4 rounds of voting are allowed each day after the first day.  If no one is elected after 3 days, voting is paused for a day, then resumes, and if no pope is elected after another 7 ballots, they pause again, and so on it goes until 12 days of balloting have passed.

Pope Benedict XVI, just before he resigned, introduced a run-off scenario.  If this does happen, the top 2 vote receivers will have a run-off, where again, you’ll need two-thirds majority to be elected.

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White smoke winner...

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Black smoke, try again please.