The recent incident involving Ms. Winfrey in Switzerland is, in my humble opinion, a striking case of a person who reads a situation from behind the lenses of her home culture, while she is 6,000 miles from home, in a place inhabited by people with a very different culture.
During a conclave, Catholic Church cardinals are confined in the Sistine chapel and in their quarters for all the duration of new pope’s election. They are not allowed any contact with the rest of the world.
Let’s take a look at some little-known details.
1. Conclave is an Italianization of the Latin words cum + clavis, literally meaning “with a key”, that is, “locked inside.”
2. Conclave is the oldest method of election in the world among the ones still in use.
3. Nowadays a Faraday cage is installed to shield mobile phone or Wi-Fi communication in and out. Failing in obeying the no-external-contact rule can result in excommunication.
4. Current electoral body for the election of a new pope–the College of Cardinals–was designated nearly 1000 years ago, in 1059.
Before that, popes could be elected by either the people, noble families, or any kind of then-powerful lobby. German emperors and Italian kings usually made a lot of pressure as to who should be elected.
5. Any baptized catholic could be theoretically elected pope. However, last election of a non-cardinal pope took place in 1378. Therefore, if you hoped of being the new pope and you’re not a cardinal, give up your hopes. It’s their business.