Inside Mysterious Vatican Rituals

Well, my friends, the bells of St. Peter’s have rung and the white smoke has risen; the Roman Catholic Church has elected its 265th Pope. The papal election process (also known as the conclave) is notoriously clandestine and almost nothing is known about what goes on once the College of Cardinals is sealed behind the closed doors the conclave.

Hoping to unlock some of the secrets regarding the process, I was fortunate enough to sit down with one of the Cardinals who actually took part in the election of Pope Benedict XVI earlier this week. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, this clergy member helped to finally shed some light on the mysterious rituals that have been conducted for centuries in order to elect each new Pope.

Joe: What the world wants to know is, what happens once the doors of the conclave are sealed?

Anonymous Cardinal: To be honest, people think a lot more goes on than actually does. They think we’re in there, burning candles, chanting in secret languages, wearing special outfits - stuff like that. But really, we’re just doing guy stuff.

JS: Guy stuff?

AC: Yeah. Like, this year they brought in a foosball table and we had a little “Tournament of Cardinals.” It was a blast! A few of the nuns brought orange slices and PowerAde in between games. Good times.

JS: It sounds like it. But what can you tell us about the actual election process?

AC: Well, basically, it’s a free for all. Any of the Cardinals can run for Pope. So what we do is, we have each candidate get up and talk a little bit about what his potential papacy will be like. Then there’s the talent portion - oh, and we have to see how they look in the suit and the hat. You have to have the look of a Pope before you can be the Pope. And then, after each round, we vote using our Cingular or AT&T cellular phones by text messaging POPE01 (for example) to 1-800-POPE-4ME. This goes on for about four or five rounds until we get our ideal Pope.

JS: That sounds pretty simple, actually. So why did the election take so long? It was 17 days after the previous Pope passed away before Pope Benedict XVI was chosen.

AC: To be honest, we had him picked in no time. But things have been so hectic over the last few months, we missed out on a lot of stuff. A bunch of us spent the time catching up on all the episodes of Desperate Housewives we had missed. That show is just crazy. Like that post-nuptial business? I mean - seriously - who does that? I’m not supposed to say this so you didn’t hear it from me, but Carlos has got to divorce his little Whore of Babylon.

JS: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

AC: Like hell you don’t, lawn boy.

JS: Father!

AC: Sorry.

JS: So, what can you tell us about John Paul II. The world knew him only as the Pope, but I understand you knew the man very well.

AC: Johnny? Yeah, we were good friends. He was great. Real funny. Like sometimes during our private masses, he’d bring out the wine during communion and just go, “Who wants shots?” That always made me laugh.

He liked to take us out cruising in the Pope Mobile a lot, too. We had this game where you’d stand in the Pope Box and he would try to knock you down by taking tight turns or slamming on the brakes real fast. Funny stuff.

Oh and he was always trying to get us to call him ‘JP squared.’ I kept telling him, “It doesn’t work like that. You can’t just make up your own nickname.” We finally settled on ‘J Pizzle’ as sort of an inside joke. He was a good guy. Good friend.

JS: That sounds nice. Lastly, Father, what can you tell us about the new Pope, Benedict XVI? Most of the world knows nothing about the man once named Joseph Ratzinger, who now finds himself as the new spiritual leader for more than 1 billion Catholics.

AC: Joey the Rat? To be honest, I don’t know him all that well. We run in different crowds, you know? I mean, he seems like a decent guy. The man is a terror on the piano; let me tell you. While we were in the conclave, he laid down some Beethoven like I have never heard it played before. Just awesome. Personally, I kept asking for some Tchaikovsky, but apparently he’s partial to the German composers.

JS: That’s some amazing information. Thank you for your time, Father Sebastian.

AC: Wait- you said you’re not going to use my name, right?

JS: What am I, an idiot?

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