The process has now begun at the Vatican for electing a new Pope. In an unusual but not entirely unique event Pope Benedict XVI earlier last month announced he would be stepping down as Pope.
This is the first time a Pope has resigned in over 600 years.
There are over 140 cardinals meeting at the Vatican to decide the fate of the next Pope. The conclave is expected to start soon after the General Congregations are completed.
How does a new Pope or Pontiff get elected? It’s actually a straight forward process. The cardinals vote via paper and pen. Each cardinal under the age of 80 will write down their candidates name on a paper what says “Eligio in Summum Pontificem” using a pen, fold it twice and place it into a container. The person left with two-thirds majority of the vote becomes the next Pope.
How the cardinals discuss and compromise in secrecy is one of the unique features of the conclave. The details of the discussions and votes within the Vatican are guarded with the utmost silence.
If a Pope is selected the announcement comes with the burning of the ballets in a stove with white smoke rising for everyone to see. Black smoke would indicate that a consensus has not been reached and the voting continues with slight reprieve in between votes.
With a little bit of bad timing March is not the best time to slowly play out the conclave. The Holy Week and Easter are fast approaching and the Vatican would like a new Pontiff by March 17, 2013
You can follow all the latest reactions to the selecting of a new Pope on Twitter by following these trending hashtags including keywords and most likely candidates in line for next Pope.