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An Angels & Demons Who's Who
Angels & Demons begins with the death of a Pope and the ancient ritual of Conclave, the process by which the College of Cardinals elects a new Holy Father. Among the Cardinals are the preferiti, the Cardinals deemed most likely to be elected Pope. The process is famous for being shrouded in secrecy, with the Cardinals secluded until their important work is completed. The only communication with the outside world comes in the form of smoke released from the Sistine Chapel. Dark smoke indicates that a two-thirds majority vote has not occurred, and white smoke (and, recently, bells) indicate that a two-thirds majority has been reached and a new Pope has been elected.

The Camerlengo has very specific duties within the Vatican. It is he who certifies the death of the Pope and destroys the Pope's ring with his official seal, also known as the Ring of the Fisherman. Until the election of a new Pope, the Camerlengo becomes the acting head of state of Vatican City.

The Swiss Guard has protected the Pope and the College of Cardinals within the Vatican's walls since January 22, 1506. They are famous for seeing their positions not as a job but as a calling. To be recruited into the Swiss Guard, one must be a single Catholic male, between the age of 19 and 30, at least 5-feet-8-inches tall, a high-school graduate and a graduate of basic training in the Swiss military, and a citizen of Switzerland.

The general police duties of Vatican City are performed by the Gendarmarie. They handle public order, traffic control… and kidnapping and murder investigations, among other duties.

In Angels & Demons, these groups and Vatican officials are all forced into action when the Illuminati kidnap the preferiti and threaten to kill one each hour, culminating in a bomb at the Vatican. The "official” story behind the real-life Illuminati is that the secret society was founded in Bavaria in 1776, with as many as 2,000 "freethinkers” reaching into the highest levels of art, science and government becoming members before the group officially disbanded at the end of the 1700s. 

However, some believe that the secret society's roots are even older – that the Illuminati have existed since the 1500s, born out of concern over the Church's conflicts with prominent scientists at that time. In the story of Angels & Demons, these Illuminati or "Enlightened Ones” were driven underground and disappeared more than 100 years ago, during which time the group became fervently anti-Vatican, choosing instead to "worship” the four elements of nature – earth, air, fire, and water. That is what sets the stage for the exciting story that unfolds in the film.

There are some in real life who say that the Illuminati still exist – and many articles, videos and other stories about them abound on the Internet today. Among the theories posted on the web are stories that suggest the Illuminati control world events, hold high and powerful offices, and are creating a New World Order to replace individual governments with an autonomous world government by the "enlightened.”

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