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Pupils watch out for the white card

15 March 2013

AP/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Excitement: children at Holy Family Cathedral school in Orange, California, celebrate the announcement of a new Pope, on Wednesday afternoon 

Excitement: children at Holy Family Cathedral school in Orange, California, celebrate the announcement of a new Pope, on Wednesday afternoon 

AS THE cardinals were being locked in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope this week, children in Roman Catholic primaries across Britain were being encouraged to hold their own conclaves to choose a class leader.

Their mock conventions will follow similar procedures to those used in Rome, even down to the traditional signal to the outside world on the outcome of their vote - although the black or white smoke of the burning ballot-papers from the Vatican chimney will be replaced by a black or white card in the classroom window. There will also be the declaration "Habemus Papam" ("We have a Pope").

The idea comes in a new newspaper called CathCom Reach, which goes to about 50,000 parents and young schoolchildren in the UK.

"The children will have to organise the election themselves, and discuss which pupil out of their own class they should elect," said Nick Layton, a spokesman for CathCom Reach. "Then they will hold a vote to try and get a two-thirds majority. If they have to go out to break or lunch, they can discuss the election with each other, but they are asked not to discuss it with anyone else."

The paper asks the class to appoint one child to be the Camerlengo, or Chamberlain, who oversees the election. They pick three others to be scrutineers, and a second trio to be the "revisers" to check the counting. The class is then invited to discuss what qualities a good pope - or class leader - should have, before each child writes his or her choice on a ballot paper.

If there is no outright winner, there is another discussion and another vote. Suggested ideas to help make up the voters' minds include asking the candidates to perform a task, such as writing a prayer, or choosing a hymn.

To avoid the real-life protracted debate that sometimes takes place in the Vatican deliberations, teachers are recommended to select the top four names as the only candidates for the next round, or they can change the vote to a simple majority. Even a deadlock can be used to halt the election, as an example of how difficult it is to choose someone.

 

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