All eyes on Vatican chimney as world awaits new pope


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Cardinals prepared for a second day of conclave behind the Vatican’s walls to elect a pope today, with all eyes on a chimney that will signal when there is a new leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

The 115 cardinals held a first inconclusive vote in the Sistine Chapel yesterday as they began the process of finding a successor to Benedict XVI, who brought a troubled eight-year papacy to an abrupt end by resigning last month.

Black smoke billowed into the night air above the Vatican, indicating that no-one had gained the two-thirds majority needed to become the 266th Roman pope.
White smoke -- produced by mixing the smoke from burning ballots with special flares -- would indicate that a new head of the Roman Catholic Church has been chosen.

As they awaited the outcome of the first vote, suspense mixed with hopes among the tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square -- and in the Catholic Church worldwide, which is struggling in many parts with scandals, indifference and conflict.

Among the cardinals Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet
-- all conservatives like Benedict -- are the three favourites but there is no clear frontrunner and conclaves are notoriously difficult to predict.

Some analysts suggest that Benedict’s dramatic act -- the first papal resignation in over 700 years -- could push the cardinals to take an equally unusual decision and that an outsider could emerge as a compromise candidate.

Hopes are high in the Philippines for the popular Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, and on the African continent for South Africa’s Wilfrid Napier, the archbishop of Durban, but in practice their chances are very slim.

Two-thirds of the cardinals are from Europe and North America and the view among many experts is that only someone with experience of its inner workings can reform the scandal-tainted Vatican bureaucracy, the Roman Curia.

The cardinals yesterday filed into the chapel, chanting a Latin hymn to ask for divine guidance and swearing a solemn oath never to reveal the secrets of their deliberations on pain of excommunication.

The "Princes of the Church" are cut off from any contact with the outside world for the duration of the conclave. They eat and sleep in a Vatican residence where windows are locked shut and phones are for internal use only.

Modern-day conclaves normally last no more than a few days. Benedict’s election in 2005 following the death of John Paul II took just two days.

Dressed in their scarlet robes, traditionally symbolising the blood they are willing to spill in the service of the Church, the cardinals held a pre-conclave mass in St Peter’s Basilica where they prayed for unity

Cardinals begin historic conclave to elect next pope

VATICAN CITY—The heavy wooden door to the Sistine Chapel has been closed and locked, signaling the start of the conclave to elect a new pope to succeed Benedict XVI, with the odds favoring another Western conservative as pope.

Monsignor Guido Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies, closed the double doors after shouting “Extra omnes,” Latin for “all out,” telling everyone but those taking part in the conclave to leave the frescoed hall. He then locked it.

CONCLAVE BEGINS A giant monitor in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, shows the heavy wooden door to the Sistine Chapel being closed and locked, signaling the start of the conclave to elect a new pope to succeed Benedict XVI. AP PHOTO/GREGORIO BORGIA

The 115 scarlet-robed cardinals filed into the chapel past liveried Swiss Guards, chanting the Latin hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” (“Come Creator Spirit”) to ask for divine guidance after Benedict’s troubled eight-year papacy.

The “Princes of the Church” swore on the Bible never to reveal the secrets of their deliberations or face being cast out of the Church forever, before the doors of the chapel swung shut to indicate the beginning of the lock-in.

The chapel has been swept for bugs and installed with jamming devices to prevent electronic communications, with cardinals entirely cut off from the outside world behind the Vatican’s walls until they have elected a new pontiff.

At an extravagant pre-conclave mass in St Peter’s Basilica the cardinals prayed for unity in the Church—a stark reminder of the infighting that often overshadowed Benedict’s reign over the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

As rainstorms drenched thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, the cardinals burst into thunderous applause when the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, thanked the “beloved and venerable” Benedict in his homily.

On the Vatican’s 17th-century plaza, a barefoot pilgrim in a sackcloth habit knelt on the cobblestones in the pouring rain and bowed his head in prayer as the chants from the Mass echoed across the square from four giant screens.

Several cardinals took to Twitter to say their goodbyes to their online flock before the conclave.

“Last tweet before conclave: May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for fruitful outcome. God bless!” South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said.

The cardinals—who were all appointed by Benedict XVI or his predecessor John Paul II—were set to hold a first round of voting later on Tuesday after which the ballots will be burnt in a special stove in the Sistine Chapel.

The smoke is famously turned white if there is a new pope but the Vatican has already said it expects the smoke from the burning of Tuesday’s ballots to be black, indicating no pope has been elected.

From Wednesday, ballots will be burnt after two rounds of voting in the morning and two rounds in the afternoon—with the eyes of the world focused on the color of the wisps of smoke emanating from a special chimney installed on the chapel’s roof.

Modern-day conclaves normally last no more than a few days and a two-thirds majority is required.

The longest conclave in the past century—in 1922—lasted five days. Benedict’s election in 2005 following John Paul’s death took just two days.

Trio of frontrunners

Among the candidates, three have emerged as favorites—Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet.

Like “pope emeritus” Benedict XVI, all of them combine conservative views with social advocacy on issues like poverty, conflict and immigration.

But cardinals from Austria, Hungary, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States—some of them with more reformist outlooks—were also rumored to be in contention.

Bookmakers said Scola was the favorite, followed by Ghana’s Peter Turkson and Scherer.

Ireland’s Paddy Power and Britain’s William Hill said Scola’s chances had improved dramatically and both gave the Milan archbishop odds of 9/4.

But Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera told Italian daily La Stampa there was no agreement yet among the cardinals.

“Some imagine him to be more academic, able to establish a dialogue with culture. Others ask for someone who is close to the people. Others still want someone with more authority to put some Church problems in order,” he said.

“So far, there is no majority.”

A few key aims unite many of the cardinals, like reforming the intrigue-ridden Vatican bureaucracy and re-igniting Catholic faith in the way the charismatic John Paul II did.

There have been calls too from within the Church for a rethink of some basic tenets such as priestly celibacy, the uniform ban on artificial contraception and even allowing women to be priests as in other Christian denominations.

The tradition of holding conclaves goes back to 1268 when cardinals were locked into the papal palace in Viterbo near Rome by an angry crowd because they were taking too long to choose a pope.

Their conclave still dragged on for three years.

Italian media reported the cardinals will be served plain but wholesome food at their Vatican residence—where the windows are locked shut and telephones are for internal use only.

Hungry prelates will be served “meals of soup, spaghetti, small meat kebabs and boiled vegetables,” the Corriere della Sera reported.

“Perhaps this food, similar to that served in hospitals, will help to speed up the choice of a successor,” the paper said.

The 85-year-old Benedict announced on February 11 that he no longer had the strength of body and mind to keep up with the modern world.

In a series of emotional farewells, the German said he would live “hidden from the world” and wanted only to be “a simple pilgrim.”

Paula Murphy from Ireland, who came with her parish for the conclave, said she was hopeful the election would breathe new life into the Church.

“I’m so excited! It’s a moment for renewal.”

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