After Benedicto XVI’s resignation and the election of Francisco I as a new pope, it could be interesting to know more about the long process to become a catholic Pope.
Only unmarried and catholic men who have accepted celibacy can become a Holy Father. First of all, they must have been ordered priests. The, they must have been promoted to bishops. However, they can’t apply directly for it. There is a secret list where their names have to be written and the list has to be accepted by the Pope. Afterwards, some bishops are handpicked by the Pope in order to become cardinals, so they can be chosen as his successor. Nevertheless, the cardinals must wait until the current Pope’s death or resignation. That is when the election process begins.
In order to elect a new Roman Pontiff, cardinals arrive in the Vatican City and take part in the conclave. It takes place inside the Sistine Chapel where the selected cardinals are locked up. They pray and vote four times a day until one of the candidates achieves 2/3 of the votes. If it doesn’t happen and 21 days have gone, the new Pope can be chosen with a simple majority. When a cardinal is nominated, there are two possibilities: he can decline the post and the ballots are burnt in a stove with wet straw to produce black smoke that comes from a special chimney (like when there is no papal successor yet) or he can accept the papacy and the ballots are burnt alone in the stove in order to produce white smoke. The believers from all around the world can see it from their televisions or Saint Peter’s Square and it is the sign that a new Pope has been elected. After that, the new Roman Pontiff is introduced to the world with the famous “Habemus Papam” and he goes out onto the papal bedchamber’s balcony to bless all the Catholics.
Since that moment, the new Holy Father is the bishop of Rome and the head of the entire Catholic Church until the day of his death or voluntary resignation. That is because nobody can remove a Pope from his post even if he becomes mad or sick.