‘I was in charge of the white smoke’: Interview with former Vatican engineer

The Conclave Of Cardinals Have Elected A New Pope To Lead The World's Catholics
The Conclave Of Cardinals Have Elected A New Pope.
Credit: Getty Images

Stefano Marino, former Vatican Chief Engineer, oversaw the Vatican’s 150 engineers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers.

Metro: The stoves played a huge role in world history this week. Where are they going now?

Marino: After a papal election they’re usually transported to Santa Maria di Galeria, an space outside Rome that belongs to the Vatican. The Vatican Radio transmitters are located there, and so are huge warehouses where the Vatican stores things it doesn’t need at the moment. There the Vatican also regularly tests the stoves to make sure they work properly at the next papal election. One stove is for the ballots, the other one just for the color of the smoke, but their pipes converge to one pipe that goes up through the chimney. The smoke bombs that produce the black and white color are especially for the Vatican and labelled so the wrong one won’t be used when the cardinals send up the smoke.

Now Pope Francis will move into the Papal apartment. What needs to be done before it’s ready for him?

The Papal apartment has three floors, which contain a library, meeting rooms, bedrooms and living quarters for the Pope’s assistants and the nuns who form his domestic staff. The apartment is usually refinished for each Pope, just like when people move into a new house. However, he seems like a very humble man, so I don’t think he’ll want to refurbish it a lot. The Vatican plumbers, carpenters and electricians can do almost anything without external workers. Using external help would lead to leaks and might even compromise security.


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