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.COMThick 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
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