Cardinals voted twice today in Michelangelo's famed frescoed chapel after a first vote yesterday in a conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI, who stunned the Catholic world last month by becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign.
His decision threw the church into turmoil and exposed deep divisions among cardinals tasked with finding a manager to clean up a corrupt Vatican bureaucracy as well as a pastor who can revive Catholicism in a time of growing secularism.
The cardinals break for lunch at the Vatican hotel and return for another two rounds of voting this afternoon.
The drama - with stage sets by Michelangelo and an outcome that is anyone's guess - is playing out against the backdrop of the turmoil unleashed by Benedict's surprise retirement and the exposure of deep divisions among cardinals that ensued.
The divisions and the difficulty in finding both attributes in one man, many analysts say, mean that the world should brace for a long conclave - or at least one longer than the four ballots it took to elect Benedict in 2005.
Thousands braved a chilly rain on to watch the 6-foot copper chimney on the chapel roof for the smoke signals telling them whether a new pope has been elected.
After the smoke poured out, the crowds began to dissipate although a few hangers-on appeared ready to wait out the afternoon balloting.
Unlike the confusion that reigned during the 2005 conclave, the smoke this time around has been clearly black - thanks to special smoke flares lit in the chapel ovens to make the burned ballots black.
The cardinals spent the night sequestered in the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel, an impersonal modern hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens. They have no access to television, newspapers, phones or computers, and all the hotel staff have taken an oath of secrecy to not reveal anything they see or hear.
COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? firstname.lastname@example.org