The conclave to pick a Roman Catholic pope is the dramatic final stage of a secretive election process that quietly began weeks, months or even years ago.
Some of the 115 cardinals who file into the Sistine Chapel for the election on Tuesday have been “papabile” – a possible pope – for years. Other names have surfaced only since Pope Benedict announced on February 11 that he would resign.
All of them, whether they seek the job or are put forward less willingly, will be subject to the same unpredictable dynamics that make conclaves among the most mysterious elections in the world.
Archbishop Piero Marini, master of ceremonies for the 2005 conclave, dated the start of pre-election canvassing this time round to February 28, when he saw cardinals chatting in small groups after bidding farewell to Pope Benedict in the Vatican.