A non-Catholic told me that when a new pope is elected he is taken to a “Room of Tears” and checked to make sure he is a man because once a female pope named Joan was elected by mistake. Is any of this true?
The purpose of the Room of Tears is not to examine the pope’s body; it is to allow the new pope to change into papal vestments before receiving the pledges of obedience from his fellow cardinals and then being introduced to the people of Rome and to the world from the loggia above St. Peter’s square. The room is nicknamed the Room of Tears because new popes have often been overcome with emotion at thought of the heavy burden that has been given them. The story of Pope Joan is a legend, roundly dismissed by serious historians as unworthy of belief. (See “The Popess Who Just Won’t Go Away” in the January 2008 issue of This Rock)