Catholic Church prepares for papal election conclave

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

St. Peter's, the Vatican
St. Peter's, the Vatican

With the death of Roman Catholic pontiff John Paul II, 84, on Friday, the Church prepares for the conclave, or assembly of cardinals, who will choose the next pope. All cardinals under the age of 80 are required to attend and cast their votes at the election, which must be held from 15-20 days following the funeral of the deceased Pontiff.

The papacy, the highest office in the Catholic church, lies vacant until the election of a new leader for the over one billion-strong denomination.

117 cardinals will meet in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to conduct the election, beginning on April 18, it was announced today.

This conclave will be the first time in history the cardinals will be allowed to move around the Vatican instead of being isolated in the Sistine Chapel during the elections. However, they are not allowed to receive or send any messages outside Vatican city during the election period. Those who do so will face excommunication.

This will also be the first time that after a full week of voting, two votes each morning, two each afternoon, the required 2/3+1 support can be set aside and a new pope elected by 50%+1 of the cardinals.

At the last conclave, John Paul II was elected after four days.

Thus, the new pope is expected to be known sometime between April 18 and April 25.