1. Cardinals summoned to Rome 2. Secret conclave 3. Voting rituals 4. Reaching a decision 5. New pope announced

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Choosing a successor
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5 - New pope announced

After the election of the new pope has been signalled by white smoke rising from the Sistine Chapel chimney, there will be a short delay before his identity is finally revealed to the world.

Once one candidate has attained the required majority, he is then asked: "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?"

John Paul II asks the person elected not to refuse the papacy, but to submit humbly to divine will: "God who imposes the burden will sustain him with his hand, so that he will be able to bear it. In conferring the heavy task upon him, God will also help him to accomplish it and, in giving him the dignity, he will grant him the strength not to be overwhelmed by the weight of his office."

Having given his consent, the new pope is asked: "By what name do you wish to be called?"

Some popes may have given this some thought in advance, realising that the conclave was moving in their direction. But a cardinal taken by surprise will be suddenly faced with making a choice that he knows will be regarded as symbolic.

For example, at the first conclave of 1978, the newly elected Cardinal Luciani decided he would call himself John Paul - the double name an unexpected departure from tradition. He explained that his choice was a mark of respect for his two predecessors - John XXIII and Paul VI.

'Habemus papam!'

After he has chosen a name, the other cardinals then approach the new pope to make an act of homage and obedience.

The new pope also has to be fitted into his new robes. The papal tailor will have prepared garments to dress a pope of any size - small, medium or large - but some last-minute needlework may be required.

Then, from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, the traditional announcement will echo around the square: "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum... habemus papam!" - "I announce to you a great joy... we have a pope!"

His name is then revealed, and soon the doors of the balcony swing open for the newly-elected pontiff to make his first public appearance in front of a crowd numbering hundreds of thousands.

After saying a few words, the pope will give the traditional blessing of Urbi et Orbi - "to the city and the world" - and a new pontificate will have begun.

The new pope issues his blessing from the balcony at St Peter's
Facing the crowds
One would say that it is like a dream and yet, until I die, it is the most solemn reality of all my life. So I'm ready, Lord, to live and die with you. About 300,000 people applauded me on St Peter's balcony. The arc-lights stopped me from seeing anything other than a shapeless, heaving mass

Diary of Pope John XXIII, 1958


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