Black smoke signals no pope elected at first conclave vote

VATICAN CITY Tue Mar 12, 2013 5:20pm EDT

1 of 20. Black smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City indicating that no decision has been made after the first day of voting for the election of a new pope, March 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Thick black smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel's chimney on Tuesday, signaling an inconclusive first vote in the conclave to elect a new pope at a time of strife and scandal for the Roman Catholic Church.

Thousands of faithful huddled in St. Peter's Square to watch the smoke pour out of the narrow flue in the rain-laden gloom following a day rich in ritual and pageantry.

Earlier, after praying for divine guidance, the red-hatted cardinals took a solemn vow in Latin never to divulge any details of their deliberations. They then secluded themselves behind the chapel's heavy wooden doors.

No conclave in the modern era has chosen a pope on its first day, and some cardinals speculated this week that it might take four or five days to pick the man to replace Pope Benedict, 85, who unexpectedly abdicated last month.

The so-called "Princes of the Church" will spend the night in a Vatican hotel before returning to the frescoed Sistine Chapel at 9:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) on Wednesday to continue voting, with two rounds set for the morning and two for the afternoon.

Until they choose a new pontiff, their only communication with the outside world will be the smoke from the Chapel chimney - black when voting sessions end with no result and white when a pontiff is elected.

The crowd's excited cheers when the first puffs of smoke emerged swiftly turned to disappointed sighs when they saw that it was signaling no surprise early decision.

"I am on vacation and can't believe how lucky I am to be here at this moment," said Patricia Purdy, a retired teacher from New York, adding it was time for a younger pope.

"It would be good if he was young, so he can relate to younger people and bring them closer to the Church."


Whoever becomes the 266th pontiff in the Church's 2,000-year history will face a daunting array of problems, including sex abuse scandals, infighting within the Vatican bureaucracy and the spread of secularism in its European heartland and beyond.

No clear-cut front runner has emerged, with some prelates pushing for a strong manager to control the much criticized central administration, known as the Curia, while others want a powerful pastor to promote their faith across the globe.

Italy's Angelo Scola and Brazil's Odilo Scherer are spoken of as strong contenders. The former would return the papacy to Italy after 35 years in the hands of Poland's John Paul II and the German Benedict XVI. Scherer would be the first non-European pope since Syrian-born Gregory III in the 8th century.

However, a host of other candidates have also been mentioned as "papabili" - potential popes - including U.S. cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O'Malley, Canada's Marc Ouellet and Argentina's Leonardo Sandri.

Latin chants accompanied the cardinals as they processed into the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo's depiction of Christ delivering the Last Judgment on the back wall and his image of the hand of God giving life to Adam on the ceiling.

The doors were shut at 5.34 p.m. (1634 GMT) after the master of ceremonies, Guido Marini, said "Extra Omnes" (Latin for "Everyone Out"), asking all those not associated with the gathering to leave the room.

Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech, who at 87 is too old to participate in the voting, remained inside to give a sermon to remind the 115 cardinal electors of the gravity of their responsibility.


Earlier, at a pre-conclave Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Italian cardinal Angelo Sodano called for unity in the Church and urged his brother cardinals to support the future pope.

"My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart," he said in his homily.

There are constant reminders of the scandals and controversies facing the Church.

In the past month, the only British cardinal elector recused himself from the conclave and apologized for sexual misconduct.

Police detained two women who staged a brief topless protest against the Church before the massed ranks of television crews who have come from around the world to follow the conclave.

All the prelates in the Sistine Chapel were appointed by either Benedict XVI or John Paul II, and the next pontiff will almost certainly pursue their fierce defense of traditional moral teachings.

But Benedict and John Paul were criticized for failing to reform the Curia, and some churchmen believe the next pope must be a good chief executive or at least put a robust management team in place under him.

Vatican insiders say Scola, who has managed two big Italian dioceses without being part of the Vatican's central administration, could be well placed to understand its Byzantine politics and introduce swift reform.

The still-influential Curia is said by the same insiders to back Scherer, who worked in the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops for seven years before leading the Sao Paolo diocese - the largest in Brazil, the country with the most Catholics.

With only 24 percent of Catholics living in Europe, pressure is growing to choose a pontiff from elsewhere in the world who would bring a different perspective.

Latin American cardinals might worry more about poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse that dominate in the West, while the growth of Islam is a major concern for the Church in Africa and Asia.

(Additional reporting by Naomi O'Leary, Catherine Hornby and Tom Heneghan; Editing by Barry Moody, Alastair Macdonald, Peter Graff and Giles Elgood)

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Comments (32)
bama4 wrote:
I hope the new ‘POPE’ is from Italy. The is the way it should be.

Mar 11, 2013 10:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mchochman wrote:
I understand conclave somewhat, but I do not accept this process…because not even one woman is allowed to be in the Sistine Chapel to be apart of this process. Now we hear of the reformers of the catholic church…But none of them can be true reformers unless they are willing to accept and advocate for women as cardinals. Ask god and she will tell you they same thing….


Mar 11, 2013 10:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
I have read it here. The Catholic church is about to elect it’s newest Pope during one of it’s most difficult periods in history. Wow, this is certainly a pretty difficult time for the Catholic church then.
Certainly (at definitely not knocking the news and journalism here at all) but certainly news, media and communication has made it terribly difficult for all religions. Including the Catholic Church.
I am here in 90405 where politically it so far out in left field, they not only well over the left field foul line but deep in foul territory against the wall and stands. Where only the rich and powerful or working class Spanish speaking can get away with being, living religious and yes, Catholic. Aaaaaaand the wealthy Conservative living under the guise of Liberals want to keep it that way. Just like many Jewish Democrats always have. It is a way to make money for them and keep the natives party and liberal happy and also their way of segregating and getting away with it easy. SO. Whatever. I am not upset or embarrassed for the Catholic Church that Pope Benedict XVI retired nor embarrassed that he was German. I think he was wonderful and was very forgiving and generous to all people in representing the Catholic Church (in that sense alone I mean). Most people do not know nearly as much about religions as they think. This goes for the Catholic Church. My problem with the Catholic Church like only 1 of everyone else’s problems with it is the child molestation thing. If adults were being adulterous inside the Church regardless of type of sexual sin, then the Church could easily and more readily handle their sex problems from within it’s own walls but child molestation accusations and charges are crimes and they never needed that type of advertising. Also, the Church is famous for protecting the victimized and justly so but this above problem is bad and opens up the Church for sexual politics and harassment from activists where it should not be getting a lot of political activists guff. At least here in USA. I am sure the Italian Political System relies more heavily on the Vatican but still. I hope they elect another great leader of the Catholic Church. God Bless Pope Benedict XVI and the new Pope.

Mar 12, 2013 4:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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