Following the death of a pope, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church meet in a session known as a conclave in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to elect his successor.
The cardinals are locked up on several floors of the Vatican Palace and meet in the chapel to vote. They deliberate, hold four votes a day and can not leave the palace until they have elected a successor.
The proceedings are limited to cardinals aged 80 and under of which there are 117 at present.
Every time a ballot fails to produce a winner, the cardinals burn the ballots with wet straw to produce black smoke through a chimney above the chapel.
Once the conclave has elected a new pope, the cardinals signal their choice to the world by burning only the ballots to produce white smoke. The new pontiff then steps up to the balcony of St.Peter's Basilica to bless thousands of faithful assembled in the square below.
Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.