News / Europe

Mystery, Secrecy Surround Vatican Conclave

A view of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Saturday, March 9, 2013.
A view of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Saturday, March 9, 2013.
VOA News
When the Roman Catholic Church elects a new pope, it follows a practice that has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.  The only difference this time is that the previous pope, Benedict XVI, is still alive.

The voting process of the conclave, as it is called, is shrouded in secrecy.  The world will learn the outcome, but only insiders will know what happened.

The time, 115 members of the Church's College of Cardinals will gather in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, and do not emerge from their seclusion until they have chosen a new pope.  On the first afternoon, one vote is taken.  After that, they take four votes each day - two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  A successful candidate needs two-thirds of the votes cast.

It took just four ballots to elect Benedict pope in 2005 to replace Pope John Paul II.  But more often than not, the balloting takes several days.

No one campaigns openly to become pope.  Instead, cardinals gather in small groups to talk to each other and discuss issues of concern to them in their regions of the world.

There is no time limit on a conclave.  However long it takes the cardinals to decide, they are locked inside the Vatican, with no newspapers, no television or radio, and no Internet.  They all take a vow of secrecy, and their aides also are prohibited from disclosing what takes place.  After the morning and afternoon sessions, the ballots are treated with special chemicals and burned in a stove to produce either black or white smoke.  Black smoke signifies the vote was not conclusive.  White smoke means a new pope has been elected.

When that happens, it normally brings cheers from the thousands of people gathered outside to await the announcement.  A senior cardinal then will step onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and declare with great joy that the Church has a new pope.

The newly elected pope remains head of the Church for life, or until he retires, as Benedict did.  The pope's reign is referred to as a pontificate.

There were nine different popes in the 20th century.  The new pope will be the third in this 21st century.

  • Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, March 13, 2013.
  • April 4, 2005: Jorge Mario Bergoglio conducts a mass in honor of Pope John Paul II at the Buenos Aires cathedral. Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope on March 13, 2013 to lead the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Crowds cheer as white smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, March 13, 2013.
  • White smoke rising from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel, indicating that a new pope has been elected.
  • Crowds cheer as white smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, March 13, 2013.
  • Nuns smile in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 13, 2013.
  • People crowd Saint Peter's Square to await the sight of smoke from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel.
  • Visitors wait in Saint Peter's Square during the second day of voting, March 13, 2013.
  • Black smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City indicating that no decision has been made after the first day of voting for the election of a new pope, March 12, 2013.
  • The crowd waits during the conclave in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 12, 2013.
  • A view of the balcony on the facade of Saint Peter's Basilica where the newly elected pope will make his first appearance to salute the cheering crowd, at the Vatican, March 11, 2013.
  • Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is silhouetted during sunset in Rome, March 11, 2013.
  • Saint Peter's Square, seen from the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs