Do you know why the pope, once elected, is expected to change his name? Because in the year 533 a prelate with the pagan name 'Mercury' was chosen, and the prudent thing for him to do, given the circumstances, was to opt for 'John' instead.
And the reason the cardinals are sequestered until they come up with somebody is that at one point there was no pope for years and frustrated Catholics shut the indecisive electors into a building without a roof and fed them only bread and water until they had a pope. ‘Conclave’ is Latin for with a key.
Now the guys at least have showers in their Vatican digs, built in 1996.
The question folks seem to be dwelling on is : When is the conclave? If it is sooner than later it is more likely that a familiar (Italian or, at least, European) face will be chosen. A few days ago, Benedict amended a law issued by Pope John Paul II stipulating that there be a waiting period of at least 15 days after a pope’s death. Benedict's amendment allows the College of Cardinals to choose whatever date they want to start the conclave.
The longer they wait, the more time the lesser-known outsiders among them get to be heard and enter the group of possibles. But it also might send a message to the rest of us that they’ve been indecisive, or worse, that there wasn’t a solid candidate.
There are 115 electors. More than half of them are European and of those nearly half are Italian. Asia, Africa and Latin America are represented by about a third and the U.S. and Canada the lowest percentage. No matter when the conclave takes place, sooner or later, given those statistics, don’t we already know where this is going?
I had more than my normal amount of coffee today, so this drawing does not conform to my usual careful (as in obsessive) coloring within the lines. I used at least two different colors for each 'section'. It has a lot of the same feel as my 'Ai Wei Wei' drawing of January 19th, also done in an agitated state.
The photo, from which this detail is taken, is of a row of cardinals at Pope Benedict's last general audience in St. Peter's Square.