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First voting to elect new Pope ends with black smoke

Last updated on: March 13, 2013 05:10 IST

First voting to elect new Pope ends with black smoke

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Black smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday night, indicating that cardinals gathered at the Vatican to elect a new pope had not chosen one in the first ballot of their conclave.

The start of the secret election got underway earlier in the day, as the heavy wooden doors to the chapel swung closed on the 115 Roman Catholic cardinals charged with selecting the next pontiff.

The so-called "Princes of the Church" will spend the night in a Vatican hotel before returning to the frescoed Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning 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.

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Image: 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
Photographs: Tony Gentile/Reuters
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At the last papal election, in 2005, the colour was indeterminate in an early round, prompting confusion. But the cardinals locked inside the chapel and the technicians who prepared the chemicals to combine with the burning ballots must have done something right.

Technology helped too. By the time the smoke emerged, at 7:41 pm, it was dark outside. But giant screens in St Peter's Square showed the spot-lit smokestack clearly, the New York Times reported.

On a cold and rainy night, the square was still packed, and some people shrieked in excitement at the spectacle.

Earlier in the day, cardinals from around the globe locked themselves inside the Sistine Chapel, surrounded by Michelangelo's imposing frescos imagining the beginning and the end of the world.

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Image: People in Saint Peter's Square watch a live television screen showing black smoke rising from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, indicating that no decision has been made after the first day of voting
Photographs: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
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The 115 scarlet-robed men entered their conclave with a final appeal for unity to heal the divisions that have been exposed by Pope Benedict XVI's shocking resignation and revelations of corruption in the Vatican bureaucracy.

Led by prelates holding a crucifix and candles, the cardinals chanted the Litany of Saints, the hypnotic Gregorian chant imploring the intercession of the saints, as they filed into the chapel and took their oath of secrecy.

With a dramatic closing of the thick double doors and the exhortation "Extra omnes" or "all out," the ritual-filled conclave began beneath Michelangelo's frescoed "Creation" and before his "Last Judgment" potent images for the task at hand.

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Image: Cardinals sit in the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave in order to elect a successor to Pope Benedict, in a still image taken from video at the Vatican
Photographs: Vatican CTV/Reuters
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According to news agency Reuters, 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 US cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O'Malley, Canada's Marc Ouellet and Argentina's Leonardo Sandri.

 


Image: Faithful and nuns react as black smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel
Photographs: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
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