According to the truly marvellous book How to hold a crocodile, this is all you need to know to become Pope (with a few added comments, courtesy of me):

Unless otherwise stated, everything in bold is a fact. Everything else is, well...

  • You must be a Roman Catholic (sort of an important prerequisite)

  • You must be a priest (this rule was introduced after the reign of Jean-Luc the Hotdog Vendor)

  • You must rise through the ranks of bishops and archbishops, defeating your opponents in mortal combat, to become a cardinal and member of the Sacred College (I made up the bit about mortal combat, although it would make things more interesting)

  • Between the 15th and 18th days after the death of the old Pope, you'll have your big chance as the College votes for a new one in seclusion (although it is rumoured that these three days are basically a big papal party, consisting of little else but heavy drinking and gettin' jiggy with it -- hence the term "cardinal sins")

  • If you receive a conclusive vote, you are officially the new Pope; all you have to do is accept the papacy and give yourself a new name

  • Your coronation will take place a few weeks later (leaving you free to bend the Catholic world to your holy whim and giving you free access to Popemobile with all its special features, like stinger missiles and a jacuzzi)

  • Interesting Facts:

  • Of the 264 popes (262 to be exact because Pope Benedict IX, during the dreadful medieval battles between popes and antipopes, was elected three times) 205 were Italians and 57 were foreigners: including 19 Frenchmen, 14 Greeks, 8 Syrians, 5 Germans, 3 Africans, 2 Spaniards, 1 Austrian, 1 Palestinian, 1 Englishman, 1 Dutchman, and 1 Pole (no, the other sort of Pole).

  • The oldest Pope was Adrian I (772 AD), elected at 80 years of age; the youngest was Benedict IX (1032 AD) at 12 years of age.

  • 81 Popes have been canonized (note: this doesn't mean "eaten by other people", but rather "made into a saint"), 7 have been beatified (nearly made a saint) and there have been 38 antipopes (like a pope, but really evil and demonic).

  • The reign of Pope John VIII was going well, until everyone realised that he was actually a woman; bringing about the consecration ceremony that consisted of a newly-elected pope having his genitals examined so that the College was satisfied that their pope was indeed a man.

  • Sources:

    How to hold a crocodile (1981)