How Is the Pope "Elected?"
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Who Can Become Pope?
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Any Catholic male who has reached the age of reason can be elected Pope (woman cannot become Pope because they cannot be ordained as priests). In practice, one of the cardinals in the conclave is elected as the new Pope. (The last non-cardinal elected Pope was Urban VI in 1379). If a Pope is not a bishop, then he will have to be consecrated as a bishop prior to becoming Pope. Technically, a non-Catholic male could be elected Pope, but he would have to be immediately converted to Catholicism, ordained as a priest, and consecrated as a bishop before becoming Pope. However, this is extremely unlikely.

In the election of Pope Benedict XVI (the current Pope), 115 cardinals were selected as electoral cardinals and entered the conclave. In the fourth round of voting, the conclave elected John Ratzinger to the papacy with 84 votes, according to the account of an unnamed cardinal. John Ratzinger chose the papal name of Pope Benedict XVI.

The new pope also has to be able to speak Italian and must be under the age of 80 years old. Most of the cardinals in the conclave can speak Italian.

Next, we’ll go over what happens when the new Pope is elected.