Secret Conclave to Choose Next Pope Starts on Tuesday
By Nick Squires
March 8, 2013
The conclave, the centuries-old process by which a new Pope is elected, will begin on March 12, meaning Catholics should have a new pontiff by the end of next week.
More than 150 cardinals, who have held discussions in Rome all week on the crises facing the Roman Catholic Church, announced the long-anticipated start date on Friday, 12 days after Benedict XVI resigned the papacy because of fatigue and old age.
The conclave will be held amid the utmost secrecy in the Sistine Chapel, famous for its frescoes by Michelangelo and other Renaissance masters. The longest conclave in the 20th century took five days, and most lasted between two and four days.
The moment the cardinals reach a decision is announced by the famous puff of white smoke from the Vatican chimney.