Conclave (election of the pope)

First this Latin word means a « locked room (clavis) » and it then refers to the assembly of cardinals who meet in such a place to elect a new pope, guided by the Holy Spirit. Regulated from the thirteenth century, the conclave has set strict rules of secrecy for its deliberations in order to free it from political influences and from simony. It is only when the Pope had been elected that the meeting room could be opened and that the Cardinal electors re-entered the outside world. Since the end of the Great Western Schism in the fifteenth century, and with the exception of the election of Pius VII during the revolutionary period (1800), all conclaves were organised in the diocese of Rome. From 1447, the conclave was first held at the Dominican convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and then at the Vatican, in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, then in the Pauline Chapel, and finally in the Sistine Chapel. Two thirds plus one of the votes are required for a candidate to be elected. The vote in the conclave is traditionally done by a ballot system but it can also be done by compromise (in case of blockage, a delegation of Cardinals may be designated to propose a candidate to the vote of their peers) or by inspiration (the voters unanimously ratify by acclamation the choice of a cardinal). This last possibility, however, was removed by a reform introduced by Pope John Paul II. After each vote, the Cardinals communicate the results to the rest of the world by burning the ballots. If the smoke emitted to the outside is black, the ballot has been unsuccessful; if the smoke is white, a pope has been elected.