When the pope dies, the cardinals are summoned to Rome by the dean of the college of cardinals for the conclave that will elect the new pope.
The chair of Peter, the pope’s position will remain empty for 20 days after he leaves on 2/28.
Benedict XVI’s resignation has started the wheels to spin. Usually, a Pope is pontiff until he dies. In this case, for the first time in 600 years there was a resignation.
The word conclave (Latin, cum + clavis, literally, “locked with the key”) designates the place in a locked section of the Vatican where the cardinals remain until a new pope is elected. It is also used to designate the actual gathering of the cardinals.
Before the conclave: The cardinals may discuss the upcoming election with one another. The conclave begins 15 to 20 days after the pope’s death.
The actual conclave: After the celebration of Mass, the cardinal dean presides over the preliminary sessions, where procedures regulated by canon law are clarified. Then all others are dismissed and the cardinals are sealed in the Sistine Chapel where the voting takes place, every morning and afternoon.