A Papal white skull cap is displayed in the Gammarelli's tailor shop window in Rome March 8, 2013. The family-owned shop has dressed popes for two centuries.Reuters

As Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world gather at the Sistine Chapel for a conclave to elect a new Pope on Tuesday, all eyes will be on the chimney of the conclave through which the result of the election will be announced by sending out smoke.

The cardinals, who had a five-day closed-door discussion on the problems faced by the church, decided to enter the concalve to elect the successor of Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement last month.

A total of 115 cardinals aged under 80 will elect a new Pope in utmost secrecy. They are not allowed to have any contact with the outside world until a new Pope is chosen.

The only contact the elector cardinals can have with the outside world is by burning the ballot papers inside the Sistine Chapel. The colour of the smoke informs the world of the outcome of the election.

Voting will continue until one man gets a two-third majority. If the smoke arising from the chimney is black, it signifies an inconclusive vote. A white smoke means that a successor is chosen.

The smoke is the only message the world gets from the conclave until an official announcement of "Habemus Papum - we have a new pope" is made, which is usually done an hour after a white smoke is seen.


Ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papal office on 11 February citing health reasons, speculations have been doing the rounds as to who would become the new Pope to lead the 1.2 billion member church.

Several names have been mentioned by church officials, but the most mentioned are Angelo Scola from Italy, Marc Ouellet from Canada and Odilo Pedro Scherer from Brazil.

The church is expected to have another conservative as the new head as most cardinals, who are eligible to vote, were appointed by Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI - conservatives who stood by the traditional teachings of the church.


Any Catholic man can be elected as the Pope under Canon Law. However. If a non-bishop was to be elected, he has to be ordained a bishop first, as he has to be the Bishop of Rome.

Cardinals from around the world will elect the next Pope to head the Catholic Church. They stay in the conclave for upto 15 days after a pope dies or resigns, and are not allowed to have any contact with the outside world during papal elections.

Pope John Paul II set the following the procedures for electing his successor in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis.

1)      Cardinals, who have not reached the age of 80 at the time the Apostolic See becomes vacant, can vote for the new pope.

2)      The maximum number of cardinal electors must not exceed 120.

3)      Two thirds of the votes are required for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff. Should it be impossible to divide the number of Cardinals present into three equal parts, for the validity of the election of the Supreme Pontiff one additional vote is required.

4)      The cardinals can choose a new Pope through a simple majority (50% plus one) if they can select within 12 to 13 days.

Once majority vote has been reached and the pope-elect accepts the nomination, his pontification begins from that moment and ends with only death or resignation.