Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

No white smoke on day one as cardinals mull over new Pope

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12:  A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
FILE - This Oct. 27, 2011 file photo shows Pope Benedict XVI (little figure in white in background) attending a peace meeting with other religious leaders in front of the St. Francis Basilica in Assisi, central Italy, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. At the moment Cardinal Albino Luciani learned his colleagues had elected him pope, he responded, "May God forgive you for what you've done.'' The remark, by the man who became Pope John Paul I, was seen as an expression of humility, but also a commentary on the mammoth task ahead. There is no job like that of the pope. He is the CEO of a global enterprise, head of state, a moral voice in the world and, in the eyes of Roman Catholics, Christ's representative on earth. The man who emerges as pontiff from the conclave starting Tuesday has a crushing to-do list as he leads the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, files)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: Nuns walk through St Peter's Square on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 12: American Cardinals wave to seminarians at the North American College who line the road to watch as they head to St. Peter's Basilica where a Pro eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated before the Cardinals enter the Conclave to decide who the next pope will be on March 12, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start in the afternoon inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 12: American Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan gestures before boarding a bus to take him and other Cardinals from the North American College to St. Peter's Basilica where a Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated before they enter the Conclave to decide who the next pope will be on March 12, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start in the afternoon inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY- MARCH 12: American Cardinals walk to a bus to take them from the North American College to St. Peter's Basilica where a Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated before they enter the Conclave to decide who the next pope will be on March 12, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start in the afternoon inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 11: A member of The Swiss Guard closes the gate at the Arch of the Bells at St Peter's Basilica on March 11, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start on March 12 inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A nun walks inside St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Monday, March 11, 2013.
Cardinals will meet in the Sistine Chapel for the conclave voting (AP/L'Osservatore Romano)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Black smoke poured from the specially built chimney on top of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel last night in a sign that the 115 red-robed cardinals of the conclave had failed to elect a new Pope on the first day of voting.

Darkness has already fallen when the smoke appeared. It was greeted with some shrieks from a few hundred rain-drenched faithful, vastly outnumbered by the world's media, who looked on from under their umbrellas in St Peter's Square.

After a disastrous decade for the Catholic Church, which has been embroiled in clerical sex abuse scandals and accusations of corruption in the Vatican administration, the cardinals must choose a figure who can inject new hope into the Church.

Yesterday, after the Sistine Chapel had been swept for listening devices and laced with signal jammers to block contact with the outside world, each cardinal swore a solemn oath not to reveal the secrets of their deliberations or face being cast out from the Church.

The head of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, then addressed all those not associated with the conclave with the words "Extra Omnes" (all out), to enable the secretive process of the conclave to start. It began 12 days after Pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in modern times to step down from his role.

As all of the 115 of the cardinals are theoretically candidates for the papacy, and the winner must receive two-thirds of the votes, the failure to reach a decision was not a surprise.

Yesterday's vote should give an indication of who the key candidates may be. The conclave will meet again today, vote twice in the morning and evening until a decision is reached. When it is, the smoke will be white.

Last night, bookies and Vatican insiders were tipping the leading Italian candidate as the most likely to win, though the delay has led to rumours of infighting among the Princes of the Church. Angelo Scola (71), the Archbishop of Milan, the Church's biggest diocese, was said yesterday to have garnered up to 50 votes of the 77 needed to become the 266th Pope, after several days of discussions between cardinals that preceded the conclave.

Odillo Scherer of Brazil, Timothy Dolan of New York and Marc Ouellet of Canada were said to be the other front-runners.

Many pundits say the unprecedented pressures on the Church hierarchy mean the result of the election is difficult to predict.

Pressure is being exerted from some quarters for there to be an Italian Pope for the first time since 1978, but the names of North American and Latin American cardinals are also on many people's lips – as is that of Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

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