The conclave that will select the new pope to replace Pope Benedict XVI, who shocked the world by being the first pope to resign in over half a millennium, will begin tomorrow. The majority of the 115 cardinals that will cast their votes have already arrived in Vatican City.
Preparations took place over the weekend. A chimney was installed on the Sistine Chapel that will signal when the next pope has been chosen. Black smoke will shoot from the chimney from the beginning of the conclave tomorrow until a decision has been made, at which point the smoke will turn white. A red curtain has been hung from the central balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica, where the next pope will be unveiled.
As The Inquisitrpreviously reported, the Sistine Chapel closed nearly a week ago in anticipation of this week’s conclave. Only select areas of the building, such as the Borgia apartment, remained open to visitors. The chapel will re-open in its entirely after the next pope has been chosen.
The elector cardinals are not allowed to communicate with the outside world during the electoral process. Tomorrow they will move into the Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican hotel. The Sistine Chapel’s windows have been painted white to prevent photographers from capturing what occurs inside. Electronic scrambling devices are in place to prevent cardinals from leaking out electoral results to the press, as the current pope’s had been.
The new pope will be known once a candidate acquires a two-thirds majority vote. A vote will take place each day starting Tuesday afternoon until the next pope has been decided.
While there is no limit to how long the conclave will last, the longest run since the turn of the 20th century has been five days. Nevertheless, the longest run in the 18th century was 181 days.
Italy, the home of Vatican City, has the most cardinals in attendance. The United States is second with 11 of the 115 votes. Europe has 60.
There are over 1 billion Catholics around the world, and the majority of the world’s Catholics live outside of Europe and the United States. Eyes are glued to the Sistine Chapel as people around the world wait to see if the conclave will select the first non-European pope.