Is your food cart that sells ‘Hot Bitter Sausages’ not doing so well? Are things looking dicey at Snappy Snaps? Are your parents losing patience with your vocation as a ‘Action Poet’ and are planning to kick you to the curb? Sounds like you need a new career. Have you considered becoming pope? The money’s decent, the uniform’s thrown in and you get your own mobile. Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? So what steps do you need to take in order to get in that big golden throne and wearing that pointy hat? Just watch and learn…
BECOME A CATHOLIC
I know, right? I had no idea. I always assumed that line about ‘is the pope Catholic?’ was just a crazy gag, but it turns out the pope IS Catholic. So you need to be Catholic too. So firstly, you have to believe in God. If this doesn’t apply to you, then being a pope might not be your thing.
If you find that you do believe in God, but were raised in some different branch of the church, or another religion, you’ll need to begin the RCIA or Catholic education classes. Research and find a local Catholic church and Priest that seems nice and they’ll point you in the right direction.
After a series of classes, you’ll be baptised, confirmed and receive your first Eucharist. Hurrah! If you’re married, you may have to become ‘Catholic married’. Though if you’re married, you ain’t becoming pope.
BECOME A PRIEST
Great! You are now a Catholic and on the right path to your ultimate goal of poping. OK, next up, you need to become a Catholic Priest. As well as having a calling from God (very important) you’ll also need to be male (at time of writing), unmarried and willing to remain celibate for the rest of your life.
You’ll usually need to be a practising Catholic for at least five years and working in your local parish for a while. Then you’ll have to get educated. This means either eight years at a seminary (priest school) or four at a university to get a degree then four more at a seminary. There you’ll learn philosophy, Latin, Greek, religious law and public speaking.
Once you’ve graduated, you have 180 days to decide if being a priest is really for you (a cooling off period if you will). And after all that the local Bishop has to decide you’re worthy before he’ll ordain you. Once the Bish has called you to Holy Orders, you’re away! Just find a parish that will have you and start priesting!
BECOME A BISHOP
OK, you’ve been a totally kick-ass priest, delivering Mass like a superstar and helping out in the local parish. But you’re a Catholic gunslinger with ambitions. Next stop: Bishop. Firstly you need to make sure you are over 35 and have been a priest for at least five years. Then, guess what? You’re going back to school.
Unless you already have a Doctorate (usually in Theology) you are going to need one. So it’s off to University (a Catholic institution will gain you extra brownie points) while still keeping up your priestly duties. Once you’ve sorted all that out, you play the waiting game. Bishops work on a strict ‘one out, one in’ policy, so you need to wait until one retires or dies before a vacancy opens up.
And that’s all you can do. There’s no application process, you just have to wait to be asked by the other bishops. That’s why you need to be a superstar priest who has made a name for himself. You’ll be placed on a list of potential candidates then the big fella from Rome, the Apostalic Nuncio, picks his top three appointees. Then the Congress of Bishops in Rome selects the best one, with the Pope himself having the final word. Get through all that and, congrats! You are now a Bishop.
BECOME A CARDINAL
A Cardinal isn’t a promotion exactly, but runs concurrently with your bishoping. Getting bumped up to Archbishop wouldn’t hurt your chances either. Again, this isn’t something you apply for but just get selected due to your awesomeness and look after your own diocese, plus help out the regular old bishops in the surrounding area. Then the politics starts.
There’s definitely certain places that get more cardinals than others (there’s around 200 out of the current 5000 bishops), so look at the diocese that have spawned more cardinals and try to get a job there. Once more, it’s up to the man in the hat to pick cardinals, so you need to impress the pope with all your fabulous activities. If picked, you get a new scarlet zucchetto (skullcap thing) and scarlet biretta (four-cornered silk hat) and a nice new ring. Well done, you are now a cardinal. You main duty is to pick a new pope when the time comes.
OK, you’ve done all the hard work. You are now a cardinal with your dainty, silk-clad instep firmly in the door at the Vatican. Now you have to wait for the current pope to die or retire (usually die). You’ll then be summoned to Rome with your fellow cardinals to participate in the papal conclave.
You are locked in (usually inside the Sistine Chapel) and cast multiple votes, writing the name of your choice on a piece of paper, which is read aloud, speared with a needle then burnt (hence all the stuff with smoke). Black smoke means we have no pope. White smoke means, yes we have a pope!
Ballots are cast up to eight times a day until a single cardinal has two-thirds of the vote. If it’s you, hurrah! You are the pope! Now the fun starts. You get to pick your own name (I’d go with Jensen, Pope Jensen sounds nice), pop out on the balcony to meet your fans and get fitted for all your new bejewelled thingies and whatnots. It’s been a long hard road, but it’s worth it. You’ve reached the pinnacle, you can get no higher. Unless you decide to be God, but that’s a whole different process altogether.