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How does one (for lack of a better word) “campaign” for the papacy? Surely the College of Cardinals is not familiar with every person eligible for the position, so how does the list of suitable persons get narrowed down?
It is generally agreed that a sure sign that a cardinal is not suitable for the papacy is if he actively campaigns for it. Anyone who wants that office is not someone who should be entrusted with it. The papacy is a burden no one is worthy of, that anyone suitable for it wants, and that both John Paul II (before his election) and Benedict XVI (immediately after his election) have likened to a death sentence.
That said, the “campaign process” usually involves private discussions among the cardinals once they arrive in Rome for a late pope’s funeral and extending to when the election begins. The discussions are informal in nature and can take place anywhere. It is said that one of the cardinals during Conclave I of 1978 engineered the election of John Paul I at the table of his favorite Italian eatery.
Once the cardinals are locked in the Sistine Chapel for the conclave, they move straight to voting. According to reports, they do not have any politicking during the conclave. Either the careful strategies of the previous days of the interregnum bear fruit, or they fall apart and the cardinals move in an entirely different direction and someone else is elected.