How a New Pope is Elected

Only cardinals under the age of eighty have the right to vote. They get off the specially air-conditioned coach that has dropped them to the Vatican.

Many of them think about the older cardinals who they left back at the Old Folks’ Home. They might contemplate how these older, more conservative and out of touch Bishops of Christ might have voted, and realise how ridiculous the situation could have been.

The cardinals do a lap of St. Peter's Square, all of them shouting up at the Popes of History - whose remains have been stuffed, mounted and mortared - and today overlook the historic Vatican in statue form. The cardinals plead with the ossified popes as they jog around the square, to help them to come to the right decision.

Alongside the descendants of His Rock, Saint Peter, stands a statue of the Good Lord Jesus Himself. He addresses the church elders in a mystical language called "Silent Aramaic".

The tongue is only heard by experts in Gnosticism who are above what could be regarded - in layman's terms - as "Seventh Dan".

In 2005, a production team from the British television series Most Haunted set up equipment in the Square to record the event. All four crew members - and presenter Yvette Fielding - definitely felt something, and the sound operator thought that he might have heard a whistle of feedback in his headphones. On playback, however, the sound hadn't been recorded.

Over the centuries, a number of the cardinals who claim to have heard His words have been struck off the Magic Circle for revealing the orders that Jesus gives at this moment, but there is little dispute over the content of his speech.

His contentious words have been translated as follows:

"Be gone ye now, into that gawdy chapel, and select a new shepherd for thy flock!"

Meanwhile, in the Sistine Chapel, the construction workers are trying to get over the beauty of the place.

Once they've settled down, the builders lay a raised floor across the College of Cardinals. 

It's amazing the feeling of warmth that is added once a beautiful, walnut laminate is put down. Laminate has the look of genuine wood, but it doesn't mark the way solid - or even semi solid - wood does. The easy-to-manage, interlocking units don't actually require a professional fitter - you could even do it yourself if you wanted, and it's very reasonably priced!

Beneath this new floor - in a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages - jamming equipment is installed so that mobile or cellular technology cannot be used by the cardinals.

Cardinal Ratzinger - who became Benedict XVI - exploited this fault in the voting system during a previous election. Any cardinals who were suggested as possible popes other than himself, he cast his aspersions on, with a dark and knowing wink, passing comments such as "I heard he's a liberation theologian", "that guy understands what the Jesus statue was saying a few minutes ago, if you catch my drift", "Raised Presbyterian, I believe",  or "That fellow? No hablo Italiano, if yaknawaddumsayin'."

Because the other cardinals couldn't ascertain whether these allegations were true due to a lack of access to the Internet or people who might know better, they voted Ratzinger as their new Figurehead of Papistry. Now that he's left his dogmatic stamp on Catholicism, it's time to elect his replacement.

Ratzinger re-introduced some ancient and mystical traditions. One of them is the decision to deny the ugliest cardinal entry into the vote.

He is told - after he knocks on the door three times - that he is far too ugly to cast a ballot. However so much the unattractive cardinal begs, he is told that he is a horrible looking primate, and the door is then closed by the Cardinal Bouncer. If the Cardinal Bouncer is in absentia, the Cardinal Bouncer Elect does the duty.

Votes are written on a kind of paper made from pasta, similar in texture to rice paper.

The ballots are placed over each of the cardinals' goblets. They then retire for some brandy and cigars on the Patio of the Basilica, perhaps to have a chat about the English Premiership, or the economy. Under no circumstances are they to
discuss the seventy-seven strong, two thirds majority that is required for the Papa Novum. If a cardinal is found to be discussing nominations, he is summoned into the Diary Chamber where he is asked for an explanation. In extreme cases, he will be evicted. But this has only happened on one occasion, in the year 1503.

After their patio discussions, the cardinals can return to their goblets, safe in the knowledge that the bar staff haven't removed their wine, and that it hasn't been spiked. 

Each vote on the pasta paper is counted, and the pasta paper itself is then used to bake a delicious lasagne in a kiln, by the Order of the Blue Nuns.
The smoke that results is sent up what is perhaps the world's most famous chimney. If minced lamb or goat is used, there is white smoke.

Beef - or perhaps even horsemeat - causes black smoke. Because the Mother Superior of the Order has been told the outcome of the vote by the Register of Electors, she knows which meat to use. Most of the cardinals prefer lamb or goat, mainly because it's healthier. 

But they will be forced to eat beef lasagne every day - and at every meal - until they arrive at their decision. This encourages the cardinals to hasten towards a wise choice. Most cardinals agree that a week of beefy pasta sounds like heavy going - and they certainly don't want a repeat of the two-week long election of Pelagius II, in 579!

When the final decision is made, the ring of Saint Peter sounds. The ring of Saint Peter is often confused with the ring that a bishop wears on his finger. It is also sometimes confused with St. Peter's Rectum. However, it is actually a bell that chimes when the cardinals have selected their new leader. The pope then goes out to the balcony, accompanied by his new secretary - known as St. Peter's Rectum - to say hello to everybody and have a wave. Later, he may be seen doing a victory lap around Vatican City on the back of one of the Scooters of Saint Paul - also known as Saint Paul's Vespers.

So that's how a new pope is elected.

All images sourced from RTE News.