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A papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals gathered  to elect a new Bishop of Rome  also known as the Pope. The pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The 2013 papal election is the 75th conclave in the history of the Catholic church since 1295. At that time, Pope Boniface VIII ruled that cardinals to elect a pope had to stay in a locked room.This time 115 cardinals are to enter the conclave papal election to elect the 266th pope .

During the conclave they are allowed no contact with the outside the world – no papers, no TV, no phones, no Twitter. And the world is allowed no contact with them. The threat of excommunication hangs over any cardinal who breaks the rules.

Before the conclave starts, the Sistine Chapel is swept for recording equipment and hidden cameras. It is a myth that a fake floor is laid to cater for anti-bugging devices… Anti-bugging devices are used, and the floor is raised, but only to protect the marble mosaic floor.

When voting starts ,ballots are burnt after each session . A chemical is mixed with the paper to produce black smoke when voting is inconclusive, or white smoke when a pope has been elected.

Conclave smoke from Sistine Chapel

But even the white smoke looks dark against a bright sky, so to avoid any possible confusion, white smoke is accompanied by the pealing of bells.

In 2005, though, the official responsible for authorising the bells was temporarily occupied with other duties, so there was a period of confusion while white smoke billowed out, and the bells of St Peter’s remained silent.

By UP