At the Vatican, workmen have finished preparing facilities for the Roman Catholic Cardinals who will elect a new Pope.
At the Vatican, workmen have finished preparing facilities for the Roman Catholic Cardinals who will elect a new Pope. The secret conclave beginning on 25 August will list indefinitely until the new Pope is chosen. In the interim the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church is in the hands of the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Jean Villot, and even the Vatican's postage stamps show that at present there is no pope.
SYNOPSIS: The Vatican's postage stamps indicating the vacant See will be used until the conclave reaches a decision. There is a strong market for unusual stamps, and interest among philatelists throughout the world ensures big sales. The Vatican post office issued one of the earliest postage stamps in 1851. Now it gets most of its revenue from tourists and collectors, and runs at a profit.
Special adaptations to the Sistine Chapel were shown to journalists before the Cardinals are sealed-in to reach their decision in strict isolation. Carpets have been laid, tables and chairs installed on raised platforms on either side of the centre aisle. But unlike some other conclaves there are no special thrones for the princes of the church. They will hold four ballots a day and pray for guidance at the altar, amid the splendour of Michelangelo's frescoes and his version of the Last Judgement.
Pope Paul's successor will be chosen by the biggest conclave in history -- 111 cardinals. Behind the locked and sealed doors, they will live sparsely although surrounded by grandeur. Their rooms are simply furnished, with a kneeler and a crucifix, a small desk with plain paper, and a hospital-style bed. Windows that afford a view have been painted over to block the outside world. The only communication possible to those waiting will be by the traditional method of smoke signals. After the ballots, the voting papers are burnt with different chemicals that generate black smoke to signify a dead-lock, or white smoke for a new pope.