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Papal succession primer

Definitions and facts surrounding papal transitions offer a helpful guide to the events unfolding in Rome.
by Carla Hinton Published: March 2, 2013

• St. Peter's Square: Where pilgrims are expected to gather to greet the new pope. The square leads to St. Peter's Basilica, a major church in Vatican City in Rome. The basilica is considered one of the holiest sites in Christendom.

• Number of votes are necessary to elect a pope: A candidate must receive two-thirds of the vote to be elected. If no one has received the required two-thirds majority, the ballots are set aside, and a new vote begun immediately, with two votes each morning and two each afternoon until a new pope is elected.

• Custom of signaling the election of a pope with white smoke: At the end of each morning and afternoon session of the conclave, the ballots from the two votes are burned together in a furnace near the Sistine Chapel. In the past, wet straw was added to the ballots of an indecisive vote to produce black smoke; dry straw was added to the ballots of a successful vote to produce white smoke, signaling to the crowds in St. Peter's Square the outcome of the conclave's deliberations. In 1978 and 2005, a small vial of chemicals was substituted for the straw to produce the correctly colored smoke.

SOURCE: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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