The vendettas, bribery, ecclesiastical feuds, political intrigue and bloodshed that are part of the story of how popes have been chosen down the centuries make for a colourful account of the Conclave, the gathering of cardinals that follow the death of a pope to elect his successor. Given the influence at stake, it is perhaps little wonder that the process by which popes are chosen has such an eventful and dramatic history. Amid the power struggles, there emerges a serious picture of the way that both the papacy and Vatican politics have developed, and how a pattern of chossing often surprised candidates for the job can be detected. What will influence the choice of the next Conclave?
Michael Walsh is a prominent Catholic author and writer. A columnist on "The Tablet", he is also Librarian of Heythrop College, London. He is the author of numerous books including "The Dictionary of Christian Biography" (Continuum) and "Voice of the Voiceless" by Oscar Romero (translator) (Orbis).