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Conclave Of Cardinals: How Does It Work?

ROME (CBSMiami) – The race to replace Pope Benedict XVI is underway at The Vatican as more than 100 cardinals gathered Monday without a Pope to lead them. They're holding two meetings Monday, in which they may set a date for the next conclave to select a new Pope.

While Benedict won't be directly involved in his successor's selection, his influence will undoubtedly be felt.

He appointed 67 of at least 115 cardinals set to make the decision.

So where and how does the Conclave of Cardinals work?

It takes place in the Sistine Chapel which was designed to be the Papal Chapel. It's one of the world's most famous galleries of biblical art and its ceiling is painted by Michaelangelo.

Click Here For A Virtual Tour Of The Sistine Chapel

On the first day of conclave, eligible cardinals may hold a vote. If there is no result, on subsequent days, they'll vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon until someone receives a vote of two-thirds plus one.

Since the cardinals meet in isolation, the only way the public knows about proceedings is through one of the most famous traditions of the papal succession ritual.

The appearance of smoke from the chimney over the conclave room indicates a vote has taken place.

The ballots are burned after each vote, with black smoke from that chimney indicating a failed ballot and white smoke meaning a new pope has been elected.

Shortly after the decision has been signaled, the new pope will appear in front of a throng of onlookers and give his first apostolic blessing from the window over St. Peters Square.

Normally, the College of Cardinals is not allowed to select a new pontiff until 15 to 20 days after the office becomes vacant.

However, Benedict slightly amended the 500-year-old policy on pope selection to get a successor into place more rapidly.

Benedict announced his intention to step down on February 11 and resigned Thursday, February 28th, becoming the first pope to do so in 600 years. The transfer of papal power has almost always happened after the sitting pope has died.

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