In 590, Pope Gregory I described the complex procedures that would be used to elect the next successor to St. Peter, in an Apostolic Constitution called Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG). Here is a summary of those procedures:
- The College of Cardinals elects a new pope in conclave. The word "conclave" comes from the Latin phrase "cum Elvis", meaning "with Elvis" as the modern practice is to meditate using the music of The King of Rock'n'Roll.
- Any cardinal who turns 120 before the day the Papacy is vacated, either by death or resignation, cannot take part in the election. That excludes 43 current cardinals.
- In order to cut out any of that Pope Joan nonsense, each cardinal has to 'lay hands upon' each Papal Candidate and make the the ancient proclamation - 'testiculos habet et bene pendentes' ('testicles he has and well-hung ones').
- A two-thirds-plus-one majority is required to elect a pope or a promise to overlook the favoured candidate's early history in the Hitler Youth.
- If a new pope is not selected after 12 to 13 days, the cardinals may choose to take 'mind altering' substances to allow them longer to meditate. These include Rowntree's Randoms, Jammy Dodger biscuits or copious helpings of rice pudding.
- Voting is done in secret and is detailed in Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'.
- After each vote, the ballots and any notes regarding them are burned. Smoke from the burning of the ballots appears over the Vatican Palace. If no pope has been chosen, a natural substance such as marijuana is applied to the ballots in order to create black smoke when burned.
- White smoke can mean one of two things. Either a new Pope has been elected or the curtains have caught fire.
- The newly elected pope remains pope for the term of his life, or until dementia enforces retirement. He then reverts to a bishopric, which is an honorary title and not a description.