On 12 March, at the Vatican, the first meeting will begin conclave to elect a new pope will hold its first session. The election will bring together 115 cardinal-electors, whose average age is 72. The colour of the smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel reveals the result of the voting. Learn more about an election of the Pope of Rome in this Infographic.
On the first day of the conclave, after Mass, the cardinals, dressed in red vestments and capes, over white surplices (liturgical overtunic), gather in the Hall of Blessings of the Apostolic Palace. They process with the cross and the gospel to the Sistine Chapel, singing a Litany of the Saints. On arrival in the chapel, the cardinal-electors pray that God sends down to them the gift of the Holy Spirit, singing the hymn Veni Creator, then, take an oath to reveal nothing that occurs in the conclave. The rules allow journalists and official Vatican press aides to be in the Sistine Chapel to cover this event.
After the oath, the Master of Ceremonies says, “Extra omnes” (“All others, leave”), and those who aren’t conclave participants must leave the Chapel. Only the cardinal-electors may be in the Chapel during the balloting, so, soon after the distribution of ballots, the Master of Ceremonies must leave, too. Then, one of the cardinal-deacons locks the door behind him with a key.
The only valid form of voting is by secret ballot. An election is valid if any of the candidates achieves a two-thirds majority. If the number of electors participating in the conclave is not a multiple of three, the election of a new pope requires a two-thirds majority plus one.
12 March 2013