VATICAN CITY – Cardinals have been entering conclaves (search) to select new popes for centuries, but the age-old tradition is getting a makeover.
The cardinals are now staying in the comfy and modern Santa Marta (search) residence, which is a nice change from the cramped quarters their predecessors knew.
The voting process is also different. The religious leaders will place their ballots in new urns as they gather in the Sistine Chapel (search) to name the next pope. If they do not reach the needed 2/3 percent majority after 12 days the cardinals can vote their favorite in with a simple 50 percent majority.
Rev. John Zuhlsdorf of the Catholic Online Forum said Pope John Paul II (search) made this change to the voting rules “so that if it was impossible for them to come up with a larger majority, they would not keep the church without a universal pastor for a great deal of time.”
One thing has not changed — the secrecy.
The 115 cardinals charged with selecting a new pope have been in a press clampdown and blackout — which means no phones, pagers, 24-hour news or Internet — for more than one week in preparation for the formal start of the conclave on Monday.
They must protect their process from spy gear aimed at zooming in on conclave secrets. Computer hackers, electronic bugs and supersensitive microphones threaten to pierce the Vatican's thick walls in today’s Information Age.
But insiders say the Sistine Chapel can be secured and the papal-selection process secrets will not leak. “It is a very important thing, everyone has an interest to protect these secrets, and it will be protected,” said veteran Italian cop Giuseppe Mazzullo.
The Vatican is also sticking with another well-known tradition: black smoke signals no pope, white smoke means a new pope has been chosen. A new signal has been added; if there is news, St. Peter’s bells will ring.
Click in the video box above to see a complete report by FOX News' Greg Palkot.