The Vatican appears to be taking cues from MI5 and other spy agencies to keep the voting of the papal conclave ultra-secret. The goal is to prevent a repeat of the 2005 conclave, when a German cardinal leaked the identity of the winner – Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI minutes later – to a German TV network before his name was officially announced.
Here are five ways the Vatican will ensure a leak-proof conclave.
1. Low-tech paint
Windows atop the Sistine Chapel and the soaring hall next to the Pauline Chapel, where the 115 cardinals say mass before entering the Sistine Chapel to vote each morning, have been covered with white paint to thwart the best efforts of photographers with long lenses.
2. High-tech scrambling
Electronic scrambling devices have been installed to ensure that anyone involved in the voting process – cardinals, assistants, Swiss Guards, elevator operators – cannot use any electronic gadgets to communicate with the outside world.
The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican residence where the cardinals stay and eat during the conclave, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, are to be swept for electronic bugs.
The cardinals will in effect be treated like prisoners at Alcatraz: Until the new pope is elected, they will never leave their tiny Vatican universe – the Domus (whose room phones are limited to internal calls), the Pauline Chapel, the Apostolic Palace and the Sistine Chapel.
5. The Fury of God
The Vatican has made it clear that anyone who blabs faces the ultimate punishment – excommunication.