Calling the Conclave. After the death, funeral and burial of a pope, the cardinal camerlengo, the man who runs the Vatican between the death of one pope and the election of another, calls a conclave-a meeting of all eligible cardinals for the purpose of electing a successor to the throne of St. Peter. The Sacred College of Cardinals consists of 120 men all under the age of 80. All members of the College are summoned to Rome. Any member who fails to appear is excommunicated, unless he has a good excuse for not attending, such as imprisonment, serious illness or death.
Know the Candidates. Popes are usually picked from the membership of the College. The most likely candidates are referred to as "papabile." It's been said that "Any man who walks into the conclave a pope will leave as a cardinal," but this saying isn't necessarily true. Cardinal Ratzinger, for instance, was high on the list of papabile, and he in fact was elected as pope in 2005. Vatican watchers often speculate that