"Papal elections are easily the oldest surviving of electoral processes. The current sequestered form, i.e., within a conclave, dates back, uninterrupted, to 1294. The next election will be the seventy-fourth in this sequence. Historical longevity, with its inevitable repertoire of accumulated drama, though entralling, is but just one of the facets that make papal elections so captivating. The dignified pomp as red-clad cardinals solemnly congregate in Rome, the obstinate obfuscation as to who is in the running to be the next pope, and the eagerly awaited color-coded smoke signals [sfumata] are matchless and enduring. Even the urn that serves as the ballot box is a bona fide work of art by a well known Italian sculptor, in silver and gilded bronze, with an abstract depiction of the 'Good Shepherd' gracing the top of the tilting lid. Thus, to say that papal elections are unique is an understatement of considerable magnitude, hence, the potential to fascinate. That is where 'The Next Pope' comes in. It deals, unstintingly, with the traditions, the norms, the papabili, the rituals, the dynamics, the politics, the mechanics, the laws, the precedents and the pertinent history of papal elections. This handbook will, therefore, both stoke and satisfy the reader's fascination as to how the next pope will come to be elected"--Cover, p. 4.