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