Black smoke signals no pope elected at first conclave vote

Black smoke signals no pope elected at first conclave vote

Black smoke signals no pope elected at first conclave vote

Vatican's Sistine Chapel is ready for the conclave and the election of the new pope by the cardinals on March 12, 2013 at the Vatican. Newly-installed tables stand under Michaelangelo's frescoes in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel where Conclave of Cardinals will be hosted to pick the next Pope. The doors of the church will be locked March 12 until the Cardinals select a new Pope. Photo by ABACAPRESS.COM

Thick black smoke billowed into the night sky from the Sistine Chapel's chimney on March. 12, signalling an inconclusive first vote in the conclave to elect a new pope at a time of strife and scandal for the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals moved into the Vatican as suspense mounted ahead of a secret papal election that has so far not seen a clear frontrunner identified to steer the Catholic world through troubled waters after Benedict XVI’s historic resignation.

The 115 cardinal electors, who are to decide the next leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics in a conclave in the Sistine Chapel, will live inside the Vatican walls completely cut off from the outside world until they have made their choice.

Dozens of Vatican staff working inside the conclave, including cooks, drivers and security guards, swore an oath on March 11, and jamming devices have been installed to prevent any bugging or communication in or out of the chapel. Cardinals entering the Vatican took to Twitter to say goodbye to their online flock before they are cut off from the outside world.

“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 told his followers. The Vatican has said anyone caught tweeting will be excommunicated.

Longer than last one

Vatican has already said it expects the smoke from the burning of the ballots to be black indicating no papal election has taken place. Ballots on subsequent days will be burnt at around 1.00 p.m. after two rounds of voting in the morning, and at around 8.00 p.m. after two rounds in the afternoon, the smoke is famously turned white when a new pope has been found. Votes are held until one man has won a two-thirds majority or 77 votes.

“It will be longer than the last one,” South African Cardinal Napier told reporters on March 11, referring to the 2005 election of Benedict, which wrapped up within 24 hours after four ballots. “It will last a few days. Maybe four or five,” he predicted. The average length of the last nine conclaves was just over three days and none have lasted for more than five days.

Italy, Brazil, Canada

Among the possible candidates, three have emerged as favorites: Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet, all of them conservatives cast in the same mould as “pope emeritus” Benedict XVI. But the rumor mill in the Vatican has thrown up other names as well, including cardinals from Austria, Hungary, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States.

The field is wide open, although a few key aims unite many of the cardinals after Benedict’s rocky eight-year papacy, including measures to reform the intrigue-filled Vatican bureaucracy, to formulate a response to rising secularism in the West and to provide new inspiration for Catholics in the way John Paul II did. The scandal over decades of sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests, and the efforts made by senior prelates to cover up the crimes, has cast a long shadow over the Church.

All the red-hatted prelates who will be secluded in the Sistine Chapel were appointed by either Benedict or his predecessor John Paul, 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 Vatican bureaucracy, battered by allegations of intrigue and incompetence, and some churchmen believe the next pope must be a good manager or at least able put a good management team in place.

Favourite candidate to become next pope

Angelo SCOLA / 71 - Italy

Archbishop of Milan, a springboard to the papacy

A cerebral expert on morality and bioethics

Familiar with Islam as head of a foundation for Muslim- Christian understanding

Odilo SCHERER / 63 - Brazil

Archbishop of Sao Paulo, the biggest diocese in the country

Conservative, but would rank as a moderate elsewhere

Growth of Protestant churches in Brazil could count against him

Marc OUELLET / 68 - Canada

Vatican’s head of the Congregation for Bishops

A theologian and well connected within the Curia and in Latin America

Secularism of his Quebec could hurt him

Sean O'Malley / 68 - USA

The “clean hands” candidate if cardinals make settling the sexual abuse crisis a top priority

Sold off archdiocesan properties to pay damages and closed down little-used churches

Timothy DOLAN / 63 - USA

Archbishop of New York and head of the U.S. bishops

His humor and dynamism impress many in the Vatican, and attract cardinals who want a strong manager

Leonardo SANDRI / 69 - Argentina

Born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents
Vatican chief of staff in 2000-2007

Often seen as an ideal Secretary of State Head of Vatican’s department for Eastern Churches

Luis TAGLE / 55 - Philippines

Archbishop of Manila, has a charisma often compared to that of the late Pope John Paul

Became close to Pope Benedict while working with him on a Vatican theologians commission

Peter ERDO / 60 - Hungary

Ranks as a prime compromise option if the cardinals fail to elect an Italian

Head of a European bishops council for two terms

Strong links with African church leaders

Christoph SCHOENBORN / 68 - Austria

Archbishop of Vienna, and a former student of Pope Benedict

Criticised the Vatican’s handling of the crisis and backed cautious reforms, including more respect for gay Catholics

Peter TURKSON / 64 - Ghana

Africa’s leading candidate

Head of the Vatican justice and peace bureau

Spokesman for the church’s social conscience and backs world financial reform

Joao Braz de AVIZ / 65 - Brazil

Took over the Vatican department for religious congregations in 2011

Backs support for the poor in Latin America’s liberation theology

Entered a minor seminary in 1958

Gianfranco RAVASI / 70 - Italy

Vatican culture minister and represents the Church to the worlds of art, science, culture and even to atheists

A brilliant preacher and writer

He tweets in English, chats in Italian
Compiled from Agence France-Presse and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.