Who elects the pope?

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The pope is elected by the cardinals of the Church in a meeting called conclave. The word conclave (Latin, cum + clavis, literally, “locked with the key”) designates the place  in a locked section of the Vatican where the cardinals remain until a new pope is elected. It is also used to designate the actual gathering of the cardinals which usually takes place in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. The election is done by ballot, a process which sometimes goes on for several days. The conclave begins 15 to 20 days after the pope’s death. When a candidate receives a two-thirds plus-one vote majority and then accepts that choice by the cardinals, he officially becomes pope.

The cardinals may elect whomever they wish, as long as the person is a baptized male. There have been occasions in the past when laymen were elected. After their election they had to be ordained priest and bishop. the one elected is asked if he accepts. The moment he accepts he is pope and if he is not a bishop he is immediately ordained by the dean of the college. The cardinals individually pledge their support to the new pope. The cardinal dean asks the pope what name he chooses. Then the oldest member of the college announces the choice to the city of Rome and to the world.

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