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Billions around the world were moved to tears at the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2.

Polish born Karol Wojtyla served as Pope for more than a quarter century.

With his departure the Catholic Church is faced with the question, who will succeed the Pope?

The process of electing the new Pope will begin on April 18, with the cardinals holding a conclave in the Sistine Chapel.

How is the Pope elected?

The Sacred College of Cardinals meets to elect the new Pope. There are currently 116 voting cardinals from across the globe. Only cardinals under the age of 80 can vote.

Pope John Paul II appointed all but three cardinals over the last 26 years.

Each cardinal votes four times a day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, until they reach a two-thirds majority. If the majority is not reached, the ballots -- which are destroyed after every vote -- are burned in a way to create a black smoke indicating that the election is still in progress.


The cardinals may then agree to a simple majority of half plus one. When the majority is reached, the new Pope is selected and the final ballots are burned to make white smoke to announce 'Habeum papam! (We have a pope)'.

The Pope's responsibilities

~ He is seen as the spiritual father of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

~ He is the theological leader and will sign far-reaching theological documents, appoint a bishop or be briefed about the latest outbreak of violence in Africa, the Middle East or anywhere in the world.

~ He has the responsibility of spreading the Catholic message around the world and fighting for social justice.

Rediff.com looks at those who have been widely discussed as the candidates to succeed Pope John Paul II.

Design: Rajesh Karkera. Text: Rupali Nimkar

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