Pope John Paul II laid out new procedures for the election of his successor in his Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis in 1996. It detailed the roles of the cardinals and support personnel, the scheduling of the conclave, the text of oaths, penalties for violating secrecy, and many details, even the shape of the ballots ("the ballot paper must be rectangular in shape"). He denied the cardinals the right to choose a pope by acclamation or by assigning the election to a select group of cardinals. He established new voting procedures the cardinals could follow if the balloting continued for several days, but those were not invoked in this conclave. He maintained the rule established by Paul VI that cardinals who reached the age of eighty before the day the pope died would not participate in the balloting.
In previous conclaves, the cardinal electors lived in the Sistine Chapel precincts throughout the balloting. Conditions were spartan and difficult for those with health problems. Showers and bathroom facilities were shared and sleeping areas separated by curtains. John Paul kept the voting in the Sistine Chapel, but provided for the cardinal electors when not balloting to live, dine, and sleep in air-conditioned individual rooms in Domus Sanctae Marthae, better known by its Italian name Casa Santa Marta, a five-story guesthouse, completed in 1996, that normally serves as a guesthouse for visiting clergy.
The cardinals departed from his instructions only in that they did not assemble in the Pauline Chapel. Restoration work begun in 2002 required a change of venue, and they used the Hall of Blessings instead.