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Marquette professor, priest explains papal conclave process

ROME (WITI) — On Tuesday, March 12th, the conclave to elect a new pope will officially begin at the Vatican. FOX6 News spoke with a priest who is also a history professor at Marquette who explained the process that will unfold over the next several days.

“(Tuesday) in St. Peter`s Square, the whole thing gets started with a mass for the election of the pope,” Father Steve Avella said.

Father Avella is excited about what will unfold at the Vatican on Tuesday as the conclave of cardinals begins.

“The papal master of ceremonies will then solemnly say, `Extra Omnus`, everybody out!” Father Avella said.

From then on, the 115 cardinals gathered will have no communication with the outside world until a pope is elected.

“The place will have been swept for bugs. It will be impossible to make a cell phone call in there. You can`t get a Twitter or a tweet out of that place. The doors will be closed,” Father Avella said.

From there, Father Avella says one ballot will be taken Tuesday night, before the cardinals leave the chapel for the night to the Hotel Santa Marta at the Vatican. They will return in the morning, with two more ballots to be taken before an afternoon break. Two more ballots will be taken in the afternoon Wednesday.

This process repeats itself until seven ballots have been taken. Then, the cardinals will take a break for about a day.

“They`ll get another little excertation from a cardinal, ‘All right guys, let`s get serious here.’ Then they`ll resume balloting until the cardinal designate will have reached the magic number,” Father Avella said.

That magic number is 77 votes from the 115 cardinals voting. When that number is reached, white smoke will rise from the chimney on the chapel, but Father Avella says listen instead of look.

“This big huge bell, the sound will be unmistakable, that`ll start to sound. When that starts to sound, all the bells in Rome will pick up,” Father Avella said.

Soon, a balcony in St. Peter’s Square will become the focal point as the senior cardinal deacon speaks.

“I announce to you tidings of great joy, we have a pope. Tell us his first name, whatever it was. If we hear a name we recognize, we`ll go crazy. Then they`ll tell us his surname, what his family`s name is. Then he`ll say the name he has chosen for his pontificate,” Father Avella said.

The pope will soon appear and speak briefly — with many other things going through his mind.

“Poor guy will be over-awed. What have I done? What have I gotten myself into? It`ll be truly a moving and inspiring moment,” Father Avella said.

Father Avella says this process is political, and there will be bargaining going on to get a certain person elected. He also says this election is not clear cut like it was in 2005. If it takes more than a few days, it will show the division among the different factions of cardinals and internal disunity.

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