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Security is especially tight for papal conclave at Vatican City

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"Closed doors are no longer enough in the 21st century," according to Reuters' Naomi O'Leary. The ongoing papal conclave requires each cardinal to take a solemn oath under the threat of excommunication "to observe, both with clerics and laymen, the secrecy of all that regards the election of the Roman pontiff and what takes place in the place of election." The conclave will also be getting some electronic help to ensure that no sensitive information is inadvertently released.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican police have installed electronic jamming devices under the elevated floor in the Sistine Chapel. They will also sweep the room and the cardinals' living quarters for electronic eavesdropping bugs.

In addition, all electronic recording devices, both audio and video, are forbidden. All contact with the outside world, barring "extremely grave and urgent reasons," has been suspended.

The cardinals have no TV, no Twitter, no radio and no newspapers. Escorted to their rooms a few hundred yards away by foot (or special bus) in the Domus Sanctae Marthae (Casa Santa Marta), the cardinals will reside in a guesthouse run by nuns.

The nuns, doctors, technicians, and anyone else who assists the cardinals will be run through a metal detector and likewise face excommunication for breaking the oath of secrecy.

The word conclave in fact means "with key." The tradition of putting the cardinals behind lock and key dates back to 1274, which began the longest conclave ever, lasting two years and eight months. As the story goes, the villagers of Viterbo grew so frustrated by the prolonged deliberations in their town that they locked the cardinals in a building, tried to starve them, and even tore the roof off to deprive the prelates of shelter.

Vatican Chamberlain Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, three cardinal assistants, and two technicians have been tasked with keeping the flow of information under control. "We are counting on people's morality and responsibility," Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi says.

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.

There are five ways the Vatican will ensure a leak-proof conclave.

1. Simple house 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 cannot use any electronic gadgets to communicate with the outside world.

3. Debugging. 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.

4. Sequestration. The cardinals will be under the strictest control as a prisoner in an impenetrable prison. Until the new pope is elected, they will never leave their tiny Vatican universe - the Domus, the Pauline Chapel, the Apostolic Palace and the Sistine Chapel.

5. The Fury of God. The Vatican has made it clear that anyone who breaks the holy secrecy will face the ultimate punishment.

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