For the next few days all eyes will be on Rome as cardinals from across the world gather in the Sistine Chapel to elect from their number a new Bishop of Rome otherwise known as the Pope. This ancient and secret ceremony can seem pointless and archaic to outsiders so NewsBiscuit has created this guide to clear up any confusion.
A new pope, when did the old one die?
Pope Benedict XVI did not die but became the first pope in seven hundred years to resign. Pope Gregory XXI resigned in 1202 following an intense theological dispute over cannibalism. His insistence that Catholics eat human flesh on Fridays was then changed to eating fish on the grounds that that was less stupid and hideous. This is the only time in its history that the Catholic Church has stopped doing anything for those reasons.
The official reason for Pope Benedict's resignation is the eighty-five year old's declining health. However Vatican insiders claim that he's got out before an imminent scandal hits the media exposing a conspiracy that will make the Da Vinci Code seem like Noddy Goes to Toyland and will involve both looted Nazi gold and the mystic secret of Donald Trump's 'hair'.
What is a cardinal?
A cardinal is first and foremost a man. The Catholic Church is emphatically anti-woman when it comes to who gets to wear the scarlet dresses and fabulous shoes. A cardinal is the top priest in his area who wields immense power over those lower down the hierarchy and whose actions are never called to account. If it was a cub pack he'd be Akela, if it was a choir, he'd be the choir master, if it was a children's ward, he'd be Jimmy Savile.
How is the new pope chosen?
The cardinals go into a conclave from the Latin cum clave meaning “to give people something to snigger about when they deliberatly misprounce it” in the Sistine Chapel. The seventy-seven cardinals then each take it in turns to catch and straddle a greased pig which is where the term “piggy-back” comes from. The cardinal who achieves the most straddles is the one who “brings home the bacon” and is duly elected pope.
Could the new pope be African?
Could the new pope be Latin American?
Could the new pope be Jeremy Clarkson?
Why is this important?
In this internet and multi-television channel age news and media has become much more fragmented but there is still one global celebrity, one man who stands for another way of living, one man who represents an ancient, powerful belief system, one man who has risen to glory through his amazing deeds and determination to always do not what is easy but what is right however Luke Skywalker won't be in a new film until 2015 so in the meantime you might as well form a semi-informed opinion about the papal election so you can show off about it in conversation.