• The pope dies, beginning nine days of mourning and funeral masses. The Cardinal Camerlengo, Eduardo Cardinal Martinez Somalo, verifies the death by calling the pope's name three times. He then leads the funeral arrangements and the conclave proceedings.

  • On the fourth or fifth day of mourning, the pope is interred.

  • Between 15 and 20 days after the pope's death, allowing time for cardinals to travel from all over the world, every cardinal under age 80 arrives at the Vatican for the conclave. There are 117 such cardinal-electors.

  • After taking an oath of secrecy, the cardinals meet to discuss the candidates for the papacy.

  • The cardinals silently write the name of the cardinal they want to elect pope on a paper ballot with the phrase "Eligo in suumum pontificem," or "I elect as supreme pontiff." Votes are taken once on the first afternoon of the conclave, then twice each morning and once each afternoon after that.

  • After the ballots are counted, they are burned. If a pope has been elected--by a 2/3-plus-one majority--white smoke is sent up the chimney when the ballots burn. If a majority has not been reached, black smoke goes up.

  • If the cardinals vote 30 times without reaching the proper majority, the rules dictate that a simple 50 percent majority will elect the new pope.

  • After a cardinal is elected, he chooses his papal name and dresses in pontifical garments. Each cardinal in turn pledges his allegiance to the new pope.

  • The oldest cardinal among the electors leaves the conclave and says in St. Peter's Square, "Habemus Papam! We have a pope!" The new pope then appears on the Vatican balcony and delivers a blessing.
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